ILOCOS Norte Gov. Imee Marcos said the government must give “LIFE” to farmers in disaster-stricken areas as a form of immediate intervention for a quick turnaround for those who lost their crops while ensuring ample supply of cheap food for all Filipinos.
“The Constitutionally-vested right to a living wage should translate into LIFE for our farmers -- the right to Living Income for Farmers in Emergency situations,” said Marcos, the only local government official who is running for senator in next year’s midterm polls.
“Simply put, in times of calamities or disasters and other emergency situations, farmers are always at a disadvantage. They have no income because their crops were destroyed. Agarang tulong ang kailangan nila (timely aid is what they need),” she stressed.
According to her, while farms hit by typhoons and other calamities are being rehabilitated, farmers must be given work to earn income to feed their families, in addition to free seeds, fertilizer, farm implements and credit assistance to help them get back on their feet.
“They can earn living wages repairing dikes, water catchments, farm roads and other damaged public infrastructure,” Marcos said, adding “this gives farmers basic resources to survive and restore their farms to productivity.”
Marcos also urged the government to lift restrictions on the use of calamity funds of local government units during times of calamities or emergencies to allow LGUs to quickly release funds to affected farmers.
“We owe it to our farmers to ensure they have living income. It cannot be that the people who feed this nation are left to fend for themselves in emergency situations. LGUs can accomplish this if their hands are not tied in releasing calamity funds,” she said.
Marcos recalled that when Typhoon Ompong struck in September, damage to Ilocos Norte’s agricultural sector stood at about P1.9 billion.
This prompted her to seek the help of the Department of Agriculture through its Quick Reaction Fund to help farmers replant their crops. The Department of Social Welfare and Development also implemented a cash-for-work program in the province, paying interested affected residents P210 per day for ten days.
“Typhoon Ompong left behind some P14.27 billion in agricultural damage in the provinces that were affected. Of this total, rice production accounted for more than 60 percent of the losses. So it is not just the farmers who suffer the brunt of these damages but all of us,” Marcos said.
“The damage to crops and livestock caused by one typhoon has added to inflationary pressures, resulting in higher prices of rice, vegetables, and other basic goods,” she emphasized.
A 2016 study by the Geneva-based United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction showed that the Philippines is the fourth most disaster-prone country in the world.
On the average, more than 1,000 lives are lost every year in the Philippines, with typhoons accounting for 74 percent of the fatalities, 62 percent of the total damages, and 70 percent of agricultural damages.