“We are taking this opportunity to barrage the government with protests for the whole week until March 8 to expose his (Aquino) accountability for the worsening state of women.” – Gabriela
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Amid the scorching heat, Emilyn De Guzman, 31, along with her six month old son joined the women who stormed the office of the National Food Authority (NFA) in Quezon City on Monday, Mar. 3. They lambasted the agency for another rice price hike last January.
According to progressive women’s group Gabriela, the price of rice once again increased by P3 ($.02) since January this year. From P37 ($.83) per kilo, it increased to P40 ($.89) to P45 ($1) per kilo this month. Mothers lamented that their children are suffering from hunger due to the continuing price hike of rice.
Guzman said her children too are suffering from hunger. Her husband works in the dumpsite in Bagong Silangan village in Quezon City. She budgets the P100 ($2.23) daily income of her husband to one kilo of rice and her children’s snacks for school only. She tries to stretch the one kilo of rice for two meals. “We only eat rice during lunch and dinner. Breakfast is included in lunch. Sometimes it’s not even enough,” she told Bulatlat.com. Their viand is salt, soy sauce or leftover food from restaurants or pagpag (literally meaning to dust off), which her husband picks up from the dumpsite.
The women are demanding a roll back in the price of rice to P25 ($.56) per kilo.
“We are an agricultural country but why do mothers and their families suffer from hunger?” said Joms Salvador, secretary general of Gabriela, during their protest action in NFA. The women were able to break through the NFA gates and held a short program in the lobby.
Zenaida Soriano, president of the National Federation of Peasant Women or Amihan also lambasted the NFA’s inability to control the price of rice. “The Aquino government does not control and regulate the price and supply of rice. This is why the prices of rice are always increasing because traders and rice cartels are the ones who determine the price of rice,” said Soriano.
“A poor family that earns P100 ($2.23) to $3.35 (150) a day has to spend at least P135 ($3.01) for three kilos of rice alone,” Soriano added. She said a family with four children consumes at least three kilos of rice a day. “What about their viand, snacks of the children to school, and other expenses? They only have to make do with two kilos of rice a day just to save.”
Earlier that day, the same group of women together with the People’s Surge, (an organization of victims of Typhoon Haiyan, locally named Yolanda), also stormed the national office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Batasan, Quezon City. They lambasted the DSWD for letting 45,000 sacks of rice rot in their warehouses.
“Victims of typhoon Pablo in Davao have protested against the sluggish pace of the DSWD in distributing relief goods. The DSWD did not act immediately until the sacks of rice intended for the victims of disasters had rotten in their warehouses,” Salvador said.
According to Gabriela, the said sacks of rice were smuggled Vietnam and are worth P58 million ($1.2 million). These were seized by the Bureau of Customs at the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) in 2012. The Bureau of Customs then donated the seized sacks of rice for the victims of typhoon Pablo in 2012.
De Guzman’s plight and the inaction of President Benigno S. Aquino III to the needs of the victims of typhoon Yolanda are issues to be highlighted by Gabriela during the commemoration of International Women’s Day on March 8.
“This year, the largest women’s organization in the Philippines will highlight the plight of the victims of super typhoon Yolanda who have been neglected and abandoned by the Aquino government for the past four months, as well as the plight of women, in general, who are sick and tired of Aquino’s negligence and utter disregard for the welfare of the poor in favor of big local and foreign businesses,” the group said in their statement.
The group will also hold a series of protest actions at the offices of different government agencies. “We are taking this opportunity to barrage the government with protests for the whole week until March 8 to expose his (Aquino) accountability for the worsening state of women. Hunger, joblessness, inflation, homelessness – these are just a few of the issues for which we hold him accountable,” Salvador added.