Aquino told: Re-channel P21B CCT fund to flood ravaged areas

RURAL based groups led by the militant farmer group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), the peasant women federation Amihan and the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) urged President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to immediately re-channel the P 21-B Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) fund to regions hardly affected by heavy rains and floods that had spread to Western Visayas region.

In a “collective press statement”, leaders of KMP, Pamalakaya, Amihan peasant women and UMA pressed Aquino to declare the P21-B CCT fund as rehabilitation fund for regions currently ravaged by heavy rains beginning the Christmas holidays last year.

Speaking in behalf of the group, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said the P 21-B CCT fund should be used to address the immediate and rehabilitation needs of farmers, fisherfolk and other rural people in affected Caraga region, Western Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Bicol and 5 more regions all over the country.

“The P 21-B alloted for CCT projects can be used to fund relief and rehabilitation efforts in 9 regions and 23 provinces hardly hit by heavy rains and floods over the last three weeks since December last year and the oversight committee created by Congress should monitor and supervise the disbursement of these funds to frustrate corrupt government officials from exploiting this misery and make money for themselves,” Hicap said.

The Pamalakaya leader said the P 21-B CCT fund can be allocated for quick relief operations and rehabilitation projects to enable devastated farms and fishing communities to immediately recover and resume the wheel of production in ravaged areas.

“We are running out of time. There is a strong sense of urgency here and Aquino cannot dilly dally or play it by ear. He should mobilize all available state resources to make sure all concerns are addressed properly and appropriately,”  added Hicap.

Latest bulletin from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said the misery brought by heavy rains had engulfed the provinces of Samar and Negros Occidental raising the death toll to 40 beginning the Christmas season last year.

The NDRRMC last week said more than 1 million people have been affected by floods and landslides caused by heavy rains and mass flooding in three regions. The NDRRMC said landslides and floods affected 213,264 families or 1,120, 685 people mostly farmers and small rural producers. Of the eight affected regions, Caraga is the most affected with 112,096 families or 601,804 people. The impact of heavy rains and mass flooding in Negros Occidental and Samar provinces has yet to be accounted.

In Eastern Visayas, floods and landslides took their tolls on 35, 463 families or 185,675 people, while in Bicol region, the disaster agency said 37,514 families or 191,777 people were affected.

The NDRRMC said damage to property estimates stood at P747 million, including P174 million in agriculture, P574 million in infrastructure, and P31,300 in private property. It said damage to agriculture posted in Eastern Visayas — Southern Leyte, Northern Samar, Eastern Samar, and Leyte was pegged at P46.23 million, while agricultural damage in Albay and Sorsogon totaled P17.408 million.

For his part, KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos renewed his group call for Malacañang to impose moratorium on payment of land rent of farms damaged by heavy rains and flooding in 21 provinces in the regions of Caraga, Eastern Visayas, Bicol and 5 more regions all over the country.

Ramos said President Aquino can issue an executive order compelling landlords to refrain from collecting land rent in disaster ravaged areas affected by continuous massive flooding and landslides since December 2010 in at least 1,073 farming villages in 8 regions, majority of  those affected came from Caraga, Eastern Visayas and Bicol regions.

Ramos said landlords extraction of land rent from poor farmers usually ranges from 50 percent to 70 percent of the farmers produce which the KMP leader described as extremely exploitative and feudal slavery of the highest order.

“Aside from quick and substantial economic relief and assistance, we strongly compel the Aquino administration to impose land rent moratorium on payment of land rent of farms in devastated farming communities,” Ramos said in a press statement.

Ramos said aside from land rent moratorium, the government should also postpone payment of debts to landlords, traders and government financial groups like Quedancor and cancellation of interests to those with damaged crops.

Pamalakaya demanded the Aquino government and the Department of Agriculture to provide financial compensation of P10,000 – P15,000 per hectare to farmers whose crops were damaged and order the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) to implement zero-interest credit line amounting to P10,000 to P15,000 per hectare to farmers.

The group said the same compensation package should be given to fisherfolk in affected regions. The Pamalakaya leader said the agriculture department should provide financial and production subsidy to thousands of fisherfolk affected by landslides and mass flooding since December last year.

KMP also proposed a moratorium on irrigation fees of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and cancellation of back-accounts or payments of farmers not benefitting from irrigation.

The KMP said the acquisition of motorized water-pumps, pipes and tubes, tractors, hand tractors, farm tools and carabaos for the use of affected farmers, and fuel subsidy for their operation were also necessary to help farmers in calamity stricken areas.D’Jay Lazaro

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