Rallyists demand NFA to put rice in depressed areas
HUNDREDS of rallyists from various progressive and peasant groups in the province trooped to the provincial office of National Food Authority (NFA) in Bacolod City yesterday to demand the agency to put cheaper government rice in areas where it is mostly needed.
Rallyists brought with them empty cooking pots to mark the commemoration of 73rd World Food Day, which they called as the “foodless” day.
Aside from clanking the pots with a ladle, they also jangled the steel gate of Nfa-negros Occidental using stones as they staged a noise barrage.
The groups dubbed the protest as “fight against hunger, poverty and state fascism.”
Michael Dela Concepcion, secretary-general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)negros, said food security remains an illusion and a vision without a plan in the Philippines.
Dela Concepcion said their organization has long been calling for the overhaul of policies and programs of the government to realign and redefine its priority.
With the nominal independence of the Philippines from the United States, agriculture production has been exported-oriented. It has denied Filipinos of its rich natural resources and fertile soil, he said.
“The long history of land monopoly still continues to the present. In fact, Negros Island is infamous of being the hacienda capital of the Philippine,” Dela
Concepcion said, adding that “the hacienda system is not designed to feed the Filipino people but towards the accumulation of wealth.”
Rallyists, who are mostly farmers, claimed they can no longer properly feed their family given the surging prices of commercial rice and other basic commodities.
They slammed the NFA for allegedly “favoring” some areas in the province especially in the distribution of the P27 per kilogram rice.
Dela Concepcion, in an interview with Sunstar Bacolod, said they received reports from their members and those of allied organizations that there are really depressed barangays, or those that really need a supply of cheaper rice, yet the presence of the NFA cannot be felt there.
“Those who have capacities to buy commercial rice were the ones prioritized. Those in the poor households cannot avail of the cheaper NFA rice,” he said, adding that it will result in continuous hunger among depressed communities, if not addressed.
To personally bring these concerns to the agency in the province, they also demanded a dialogue with Nfa-negros Occidental provincial manager Frisco Canoy.
Dela Concepcion, along with four leaders of National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), Kadamay and Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), sought the explanation of the provincial manager on their claims that the presence of NFA rice cannot be felt by the marginalized sector.
During the dialogue at his office, Canoy admitted there is currently a limited supply of NFA rice in the province though they are initiating different measures to serve mainly poor households and communities.
Among these measures he cited included the establishment of “tagpuan” centers that cater to residents of different barangays in the province, allowing them to two kilograms each.
The existing 10 “tagpuan centers” in different localities, mostly in Bacolod City, are on top of the regular market outlets selling the P27 per kilogram rice.
Also, Nfa-negros Occidental has recently opened its “Bugasan sa Bodega” through its warehouses in San Carlos City and Ilog town allowing residents to buy up to five kilograms of rice.
“We encouraged progressive groups to tap retailers in their respective areas to set up tagpuan centers as the NFA is willing to allocate even initial stocks of 20 bags per week which will eventually increase once additional buffer in the province improves,” he added.
At the end of the dialogue, the progressive and peasant group leaders have asked Canoy if the agency can offer them an “immediate relief” during this time as farm workers are still suffering from the effects of the lean season.
Canoy, however, pointed out the NFA itself cannot distribute its rice for free. Instead, they will try to tap the employees union if they can extend assistance to the groups using their personal funds or rice allowances.
For their part, Dela Concepcion reaffirmed that the NFA cannot yet meet its mandate for the long run. “It remains inutile in resolving our problem on hunger.”*
RALLYISTS clank empty cooking pots as they hold noise barrage in front of Nfa-negros Occidental Office in Bacolod City yesterday.
PROGRESSIVE and peasant group leaders led by Bayan-negros secretary-general Michael Dela Concepcion raise their concerns to Nfa-negros Occidental provincial manager Frisco Canoy in a dialogue at his office in Bacolod City yesterday.