KMP:P3-Billion Damage to Crops-Cagayan Valley Farmers Call Out for Relief as Crops Dry Out

Media Release
February 22, 2010

The left-wing Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines) conveyed the call of farmers in Isabela and Cagayan provinces, led by the Alyansa Dagiti Mannalon Iti Cagayan (Kagimungan, KMP Cagayan Valley), for relief as their crops, majorly rice and corn are nearing total damage at present valued at P3 billion, due to absence of rain and fundamentally to non-irrigation.

“They are now actually demanding relief such as food, as even they salvage part of their crops they would not sustain their food needs, thus, we are calling on all sectors to prepare for a massive relief efforts for the region of Cagayan Valley,” said Danilo Ramos, KMP Secretary-General in a press statement.

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Leaders of Kagimungan recently consulted with the national office of KMP to request help for aid and campaign against hunger and poverty. They have shared that Magat Dam could not supply the irrigation needs of the region as it is primarily for power generation and privately managed by SN Aboitiz. Farmers in the region usually depend on rain, which at present does not occur widely in the region. There are also some water ponds left thus, they are requesting for waterpumps, hoses, pipes and support for purchase of diesel to operate the pumps.

“They said that Magat Dam only supplies irrigation for one town, Ramon in Isabela and now the management has already closed it down. Farmers talked with them and said that they could open it on March, but on a ‘rotation-basis’ such as opening it every after one week. By that time, there would be nothing left of their crops,” said Ramos.

Cagayan Valley farmers primarily blamed the calamity to non-irrigation, particularly the privatization of Magat Dam which is managed by SN Aboitiz Power, Inc. (SNAP), a joint-venture between Aboitiz Equity Venture and Norwegian SN Power Invest since 2007. SNAP won the dam’s privatization in 2006. Since 1983 when it was built as a multi-purpose dam, aimed to triple rice production in the region, it was managed by the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) while the hydroelectric plant was owned by the National Power Corp. (NAPOCOR). Hence, they are calling for the nationalization of Magat Dam and make irrigation for agriculture its primary purpose, instead of power generation.

Kagimungan also said that they are already alerting local-government units and Dept. of Agriculture – Region II since November to December that crops are on the process of drying out, some denying the effects climate change. Government offices continued to neglect their calls until the effects are uncontestable on January. At present, even if efforts would be done, only a few farms could be salvaged.

“We are really asking why this is happening in Cagayan Valley, when in Nueva Ecija where the Pantabangan Dam it is not. We believe that this is due that government neglected irrigation for the region as 60% of Cagayan is not irrigated, unlike in Nueva Ecija where Pantabangan Dam is located supplies irrigation. The dam was built primarily to irrigate farms,” said Ramos.

Kagimungan also said that cloudseeding efforts led by the Dept. of Agriculture – Region II are not effective.

“In relation, a friend of mine from an agriculture office said that cloudseeding is a favorite as it is difficult to be audited, thus, we do not know how they implement cloudseeding,” said Ramos.

The groups are also asking where the P1.7 billion budget managed by Task Force “El Niño” headed by agriculture secretary Arthur Yap. KMP and Kagimungan also condemned the agriculture office’s channeling of subsidies to pseudo-farmer groups who require farmers to apply as members in order to get hold of the seeds and fertilizers.

“Even in times of calamity, the agriculture dept. could not rid away of its corrupt practices. Also, the main problem is that they are giving out hybrid rice and bt corn seeds, varieties that heavily depend on irrigation and agro-chem inputs. Thus, they are like giving nothing as it is not appropriate for the current condition of the region. It only results disunity among farmers as they wrestle for the limited give-away, such as 5 bags of seeds for a barangay, trickling down to 1 to 2 glasses of seeds per household,” said Ramos.

In relation, farmer groups led by KMP, Amihan (peasant women), UMA (agri-workers) and Pamalakaya-Pilipinas (fisherfolk) would protest in front of the Dept. of Agriculture on February 26 to call for the immediate relief for Cagayan Valley farmers. Then on March 5, hundreds of farmers from Cagayan Valley led by Kagimungan would hold a dialogue with sec. Arthur Yap and protest at Mendiola for the negligence of the Arroyo government.

“Thus, we clear out the demands of the farmers in Cagayan Valley. Number one is food, nothing could be done with their crops. If there is something left, they need waterpumps, pipes, hose and diesel for its operation. Then, fundamentally, the nationalization of Magat Dam, which its privatization in 2007 is a major player to this calamity. Its transformation to be primarily for power generation is a big factor from its original purpose of increasing rice production in the region. If farmers start dying in Cagayan Valley because of hunger, we would hold the Arroyo government responsible,” called Ramos.

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