Ral­ly­ists de­mand NFA to put rice in de­pressed ar­eas

Sun Star Bacolod - - Top Stories - BY ER­WIN P. NICAVERA

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.

Di­a­logue

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.

‘Im­me­di­ate re­lief’

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.”*

ER­WIN NICAVERA

RAL­LY­ISTS clank empty cook­ing pots as they hold noise bar­rage in front of Nfa-ne­gros Oc­ci­den­tal Of­fice in Ba­colod City yes­ter­day.

ER­WIN NICAVERA

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.

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