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Farmers’ protests continue now block North Cotabato-Sultan Kudarat

Local News • 17:53 PM Thu Mar 31, 2016
Malu C. Manar
Protesters versus Police. Members of North Cotabato PNP told to exercise maximum tolerance in dealing with farmers. (PNP photo)

KIDAPAWAN CITY --After paralyzing the Makilala-Kidapawan highway for two days, more than 1,000farmerscreated a human chain today along the Makilala-Tulunan-Tacurong City highway, making it impossible for vehicles plying all sides of the roads from passing through.At about5 a.m., more than a thousand farmers, all claimed to be members of the militantKilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas(KMP), marched from their temporary headquarters at the Spottswood Methodist Center here to the Poblacion in Makilala.Immediately, they made a human chain preventing vehicles, both government and privately-owned, from passing through Davao-Cotabato and Cotabato-Sultan Kudarat highways. While doing a barricade, all of them were repeatedly chantingthe word Bugas (Rice!). The protesters -- majority of them come from the hinterland towns of Arakan, Antipas, President Roxas, and Antipas in North Cotabato, claimed their families have no more food prepared on the table because their crops, including rice and corn, were destroyed by the long dry spell. More than a thousand rallyists are from towns in Bukidnon in Northern Mindanao. The rally organizers wanted to negotiate with North Cotabato Governor Lala Mendoza for the more than 15,000 sacks of rice they wanted to carry back home.Such bags of rice, they said, could sustain their needs until the rains come. According to Kidapawan City Mayor Joseph Evangelista, the governor agreed to discuss the issues with the organizers. Evangelista chairs the Crisis Management Committee (CMC) handling the crisis situation in the area. He said at around 9 p.m., Wednesday, Mendoza arrived at his office at the city hall. The mayor stressed he offered his place, both for Mendoza and the farmers’ leaders, as a neutral venue for the meeting. The meeting, however, did not happen, according to him. The governor waited until 11:30 p.m., on Wednesday.Yet no one from the organizers came.I didn’t receive any text message from them about the postponement of such meeting,” the mayor said.With so much exasperation, he said he could no longer allow the rally to paralyze the business activities in the city. Everyone was affected… the business community, our commuters, and also the city government.How much money have we poured in to ensure our people securing the highways could eat?These funds are our peoples’ taxes.The money could have been used as additional funds for our calamity assistance,” he stressed. The rally and mass protests started Wednesday dawn and continued as of this writing.Pedro Arnado, KMP chair, said they would not stop until the provincial government meets their demands.Among their demands are rice subsidy and other financial assistance for drought victims.

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