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Farmers block Kidapawan highway, demand rice, not cloud seeding

Local News • 19:07 PM Wed Mar 30, 2016
Malu C. Manar
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMU) members barricade portion of Davao-Cotabato highway in Kidapawan-Makilala borders. (photo by Fr. Jonathan Domingo, OMI)

KIDAPAWAN CITY – Despite the ‘scorching’ heat, close to 5,000 farmers from the hinterland towns in North Cotabato blocked on Wednesday the national highway here after making a human barricade in both sides of the road.The rallyists, all members of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), started to march from their base at the Spottswood Methodist Center along Quezon Boulevard, this city, along the Landmark or boundary of the city and town of Makilala where they set up a human chain.The chain prevented vehicles plying Davao to Cotabato to pass through the highway.Also, all exits and entrance routes along the boundary were blocked by the protesters.Pedro Arnado, chair of KMP Southern Mindanao, said they will continue with their protests until officials from the Cotabato provincial government, meet their demands. They want, in particular, Cotabato Governor Lala Mendoza, to negotiate with them. Arnado said they want rice and other financial subsidy, which were allegedly promised by the provincial government, to victims of El Nino when the province was placed under ‘state of calamity’ in January this year.He said the farmers need at least 15,000 bags of rice from the National Food Authority (NFA) to sustain them until the rain comes. Second, they demanded free vegetable seedlings from the Department of Agriculture (DA) and that the funds used for cloud seeding operations be allotted for rice allocation. Third, the farmers want increase in the prices of their agricultural products, including coconut, rubber, rice, and corn. sand// (Police tried to disperse the protesters using fire truck water canons - Fr. Jonathan Domingo, OMI) Fourth, the KMP and other residents from barangays from Arakan, Antipas, President Roxas, and Antipas, which they claimed are heavily militarized, be freed from the 39thInfantry Battalion’sOplan Bayanihan. Lastly, they demand from the government investigation of the alleged distribution of firearms to lumads from barangays Imamaling and Manobisa in Magpet town.The guns, according to Arnado, had come from Cotabato 2nddistrict Representative Nancy Catamco. Catamco is chair of the Committee on Indigenous Peoples at the House of Representatives. Jessie Ined, assistant executive secretary of Mendoza, said the governor won’t be able to meet the protesters on Wednesday as this was not arranged earlier. We have not received any invitation for a meeting with the protesters.Well, you know our governor.She is open to everyone.The capitol is also open to receive request such as this.But no, there was not arrangements of that sort,” said Ined. Ined has also denied reports there were several attempts of the group to meet with the governor but were denied. I want to clarify that matter.What did the organizers of this rally do?I could not find any notice regarding this.So, there was no schedule,” said the secretary.Earlier, Superintendent Bernard Tayong, spokesperson for the Cotabato Police Provincial Office (CPPO), said there was no truth to the matter that Governor Mendoza would be distributing kilos of rice to El Nino victims in Kidapawan City. sand// Tayong said, the provincial government is reserving available resources for the future as El Nino will continue until June this year.”

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