Measly funds for peasant sector amid restrictive lockdown
At least 26 provinces in Visayas and Mindanao declared their respective lockdowns simultaneous with the Duterte regime’s implementation of a Luzon lockdown. Commerce and trade in these areas are paralyzed as the transportation of people and products is restricted. Farmers were also forced to halt production in the countryside. Even areas without lockdowns are also affected because majority of those locked down are regional and provincial centers.
Millions of farmers and farmworkers lost their incomes due to the lockdowns.
More than 700,000 workers in sugar centrals and 75,241 farmworkers in sugarcane plantations lost their incomes due to the closure of factories and haciendas. In Bukidnon, the local government ordered the closure of the Sugar Milling Corporation and Crystal Sugar Company, Inc. from March 27 to April 26. Around 10,000 workers and another 10,000 small sugarcane planters are affected by the closure. Thousand of farmworkers in Negros suffered from an early tiempo muerto (dead season) with the closure of sugarcane plantations and sugar centrals in the island. Despite this, only 6% of sugarcane farmworkers was aided by the regime.
Only a small portion of aid from the Department of Agriculture (DA) was delivered to them. Even its loan program is limited to only 300,000 which is only 3.7% of the total number of farmers and farmers and fisherfolk.
The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) pointed out that the agency received a budget allocations of P62.69 billion this 2020. Adding the P31-billion fund it requested on March 25, the agency has a total budget of P93 billion.
Farmers will receive only a small portion of this budget. Nearly 90% of the budget is allocated in lump sums for projects that do not provide immediate relief to hungry and bankrupt farmers. Duterte’s report on April 20 indicates that only 52,000 of the targeted 591,246 million rice farmers benefited from the regime’s P3-billion Social Social Amelioration Program. The agency provided no mechanism as to how beneficiaries will receive the aid intended for them.
The DA added that 300,000 poor farmers already received P5,000 each from the Land Bank’s Rice Farmers Financial Assistance Program. The agency still has a long way to go in aiding approximately 9.7 million farmers, farmworkers, and fisherfolk in need of immediate assistance.
The regime’s aid distribution program is riddled with corruption. Many are complaining over the apparent arbitrary distribution of aid, and the stringent and extremely slow process. In a town in Camarines Sur, the P5,000 aid for senior citizens was slashed by P1,400 as this would purportedly be used to buy medicines, rice and sardines. Senior citizens however noted that no such relief goods were given them.
Senior citizens with their children who are employed will also not be aided, even if they could not make a living due to the lockdown. Workers in groceries, banks and other establishments who are not registered as residents will also not be aided.
Curfew and checkpoints in the countryside further causes economic hardships on farmers and farmworkers as they are restricted from transporting their produce.
In several towns in Ilocos, residents were charged P50-P80 each for a daily travel pass. The curfew also limited the number of hours farmers in Cagayan Valley and Lower Kalinga are allowed to work.
Farm produce from Upper Kalinga, Benguet, Ifugao and Mountain Province were barred at checkpoints. In Tinoc, Ifugao, farmers were forced to immediately harvest their vegetables after the local government implemented a lockdown. They struggled to sell nearly 100,000 tons of vegetables at extremely low rates instead of just leaving theses to rot.