NDFP-Palawan condemns Marcos for criminal negligence amid El Niño

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“The reactionary government owes a great accountability to the people of Palawan for their suffering from drought, and other calamities and disasters,” the revolutionary movement in Palawan declared. The regime is complicit in the oppression and exploitation by foreign monopolies, big comprador-landlords as the culprit in the extreme poverty of the Palaweño masses, it said.

Drought caused by El Niño is currently ravaging the province. In February, the cost of damaged crops in 816.38 hectares of agricultural land here reached ₱48 million. More than half or ₱27 million worth of damaged crops is in the town of Brooke’s Point, while the town of Narra comes in second with over ₱10 million, as reported by comrades in the area.

Coron, Quezon and Roxas were also among the towns affected, with damages estimated at ₱2-5 million each. “This is alarming for it will definitely expand more because El Niño is estimated to prevail until June this year,” they said.

The Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA) say the drought affects 1,200 farmers from the towns of Aborlan, Narra, Sofronio Española, Quezon, San Vicente, Taytay and Bataraza. This number is conservative as the report does not yet include the farmers in Brooke’s Point where the damage is worst.

The latest report of the NDRRMC this March says the drought brought ₱1.75 billion worth of damages to agriculture nationwide. It affected 29,409 farmers and fisherfolk, of which 2,613 were from MIMAROPA with an area of damaged crops of more than 3,000 hectares.

In Barangay New Agutaya, San Vicente, farmers have experienced the effects of the climate change. They said those who used to get a share of 20 sacks now go without a bag. In a study, small fisherfolk in the islands of Calamianes (Busuanga, Coron and Culion) also felt the effect of climate change on the dwindling fish they catch. They used to catch 20-50 kilos just on their way out to sea, now they only bring home five kilos of fish after going forth and back. With the climate warming, fish tend to go to the deeper and colder part of the sea, so fishermen say they fish further out to sea. They travel far and still not catch enough.

“Amidst the extent and intensity of the damage drought brings, the aid and services from the US-Marcos regime are near nothing,” according to Palawaños. “The masses of farmers and fisherfolk continue to suffer both from the drought and the reactionary government’s neglect.”

A measly ₱5,000 in aid was given to 71,795 farmers in MIMAROPA under the Rice Farmers Financial Assistance (RFFA) program. The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) is belatedly rushing to install 570 augmentation pumps in five regions at the same time as MIMAROPA, which has been severely affected by the drought. It is also just now implementing the cementing of 847.82 kilometers of irrigation canal purportedly for the benefit of 40,621 farmers across the country. The DSWD and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) distribute scanty food packs and cash-for-work for drought victims.

In the face of this, the NDF-Palawan challenged the local government to act on the suffering of the poor. According to Leona Paragua, spokesperson of NDF-Palawan, it seems that local officials are still waiting for the declaration of the state of calamity before taking action.

Paragua called on the people to further unite and launch different types of actions to expose, charge and condemn the state for its criminal negligence of the welfare and well-being of the people amid such disasters.

“They should demand adequate and competent aid and assistance amid the destruction of their livelihoods,” she said. “They should harness their collective efforts to deal with the suffering of the drought in their own way.” She said the allied organizations of the NDFP in Palawan should lead the meetings and implementation of the initiative to reduce the damage caused by the drought.”

(From Ang Pulang Langaran, Revolutionary Mass Newspaper in Palawan, January-March 2024)

AB: NDFP-Palawan condemns Marcos for criminal negligence amid El Niño