Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) held a dialogue with the Department of Agriculture (DA) following a request filed to discuss concerns regarding the livelihood of local farmers amid the global pandemic with the Regional Director. The dialogue was held in the Regional Office of the DA between members of the agency and Joseph Canlas, the chairperson of the AMGL.
Two results stemmed from the dialogue: the first one being that the Regional Office of the DA provided a list of the farmers who have been given relief goods as well as financial assistance by the government though they did not give a list of those who have yet to be given the assistance. The second result was the agency’s agreement of the AMGL proposed Peasant Stimulus Package and offered to help should the request be approved as part of the national fund by the government.
Assistance for Agriculture
“Ang pangunahing laman na piniling namin na pagusapan sa diyalogo sa DA Regional Office ay ang Social Amelioration Program ng gobyerno para sa magsasaka at tsaka ung tinatawag nilang Financial Assistance na halagang 5,000 sa mga magsasakang may lupang di bababa o lalagpas ng isang hectaryo pero pwedeng bumaba sa isang hectaryo,” Joseph Canlas stated.
Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act states that each low-income household is to receive a subsidy ranging from P5,000 to P8,000 per month for two months. Canlas also added that there are problems regarding the distribution of relief goods and financial assistance for farmers. The issuing of assistance for the farmers was slow-paced and was limited as only a few families were able to receive it.
“Ngunit napakalimitado ang bilang na nakatanggap bukod sa mabagal, napakakonti ang mga nakatanggap. ‘Yon ang isang inihapag namin na ‘bakit ganun?’. Bakit ganyan ang naging pagturing ng gobyerno sa aming magsasaka sa kabila ng tulad din sa ibang sektor na dumaranas din ng matinding kahirapan sa panahon na pagpapatupad ng ECQ ng gobyerno sa ilalim ng Covid-19 pandemic.” stated Canlas.
In a press release by Peasant Watch CL, the DA has reported that a total of 94% of farmers have received financial assistance. Canlas disputes this, saying that the report was given by the LGU and not the farmers themselves, therefore the data is not accurate.
Another issue brought up is the Philippine Economic Stimulus Act of 2020 (PESA) wherein the AMGL proposed the Peasant Stimulus Package in the dialogue to provide and prioritize financial assistance to peasant farm workers as Canlas stated that the agricultural sector is not prioritized or noticed in the PESA.
“Samantalang dapat sana ang gobyerno natin, ito ang pangunahing bigyan ng diin—’yong agrikultura natin. Dahil ang agrikultura natin, ito ‘yong pinakapangunahing batayan sa laylayan ng ating ekonomiya.” Canlas added.
He also mentioned that if the government does prioritize citizens working in the agricultural sector, then 75% of them would less likely struggle.
Canlas lastly stated that true land reform is still needed as well as precise planning with guidelines to strengthen production for farmers.