MANILA — More than 200 social movements and civil society organizations from more than 60 countries signed a statement asking Dr. Hilal Elver, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Right to Food, to investigate the government’s failure to address the plight of starving communities due the El Niño phenomenon in the country.
The issue of starvation due to the El Niño gained public attention when police authorities fired upon protesting farmers April 1, resulting in the killing of two farmers and injuring more than a hundred civilians. More than 80 persons were also arrested including three pregnant women, six elderly and four minors.
Advocates said the incident falls under the mandate of Elver, citing the alleged criminal neglect of the Philippine government on the realization of the right of farmers to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger especially on severe conditions such as drought.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food monitors the situation and identifies general trends related to the right to food and undertakes country visits which provide the Special Rapporteur with a firsthand account on the situation concerning the right to food in a specific country. The Special Rapporteur also communicates with States and other concerned parties with regard to alleged cases of violations of the right to food and other issues related to his/her mandate.
The network said it is important for Elver to be part of an independent body to investigate not only the violence but also the overall condition of food insecurity in provinces hit by El Niño.
The Peoples Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS) noted that the ongoing Senate inquiry revealed anomalies to in calamity fund distribution and the government’s failure to provide food relief to families suffering from the effects of El Niño.
The PCFS, a network of various grassroots groups of small food producers particularly of peasant-farmer organizations and their support NGOs, along with several organizations from Europe, USA, Africa, Middle East and Asia have issued statements condemning the April 1 violence in Kidapawan City.
The PCFS and its allied organizations have also participated in the globally coordinated protest action held last April 8 to condemn the violence against Cotabato farmers.
In a related development, an official of the social action arm of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) expressed alarm over the delayed release of government funds that would help ease the burden of farmers suffering from the ill effects of the El Niño phenomenon.
In a statement, National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA)/Caritas Philippines Executive Secretary Fr. Edwin Gariguez, said, “What is taking them long from releasing these available funds? We have already seen enough bloodshed in Kidapawan which rooted from the government’s inaction to this national concern.”
Gariguez is referring to the available funds from the national government such as the quick response funds (QRF), which have not yet been fully disbursed despite requests by local government units of areas hit by El Niño.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development earlier claimed that P1.32 billion (US $28.65 million) QRF for 2016 and another P6.7 billion ($145 million) for the implementation of cash-for-work and livelihood assistance for families affected by El Niño are available for distribution. But these funds were not yet fully downloaded to the affected LGUs.
“Time is of the essence here. The government needs to act now and disburse the funds intended for the farmers, who have suffered enough. Loss of livelihood means hunger for our people who are already living in poverty to start with,” Gariguez said.
Several dioceses in Mindanao particularly the Archdiocese of Cotabato and the Diocese of Marbel have already raised concern about how the drought is taking its toll on farmers, Gariguez said. (bulatlat.com)