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PHILIPPINES: Starving families of tenant farmers in Pigcawayan, Cotabato need government attention

There has been starvation and hunger in the province of North Cotabato, Mindanao and several neighboring municipalities in Central Mindanao region following a severe drought that began early this year. It destroyed the farmlands and farm crops of many farmers in Pigcawayan and nearby provinces of Cotabato. Most of the tenant farmers, who have been living in abject poverty, have had to find other work or borrow money from their relatives and merchants, to meet their needs.

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ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAM

30 June 2005
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HA-14-2005: PHILIPPINES: Starving families of tenant farmers in Pigcawayan, Cotabato need government attention

PHILIPPINES: Starvation and malnutrition; abject poverty; government neglect
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that some families of tenant farmers in Pigcawayan, Cotabato, Mindanao, have experienced starvation following a severe drought that destroyed their farm crops. The families are dependent on their farm produce for their food, livelihood and basic needs. After the drought they are now having difficulty in providing food and basic needs for their families.

Although the local government has placed the area where they farm under a state of calamity, at least two families have yet to benefit from the government’s program regarding calamity assistance for affected farmers. We therefore ask for your urgent action by calling on the Philippine government to take immediate steps to the family, as well as other farmers in Cotabato without delay. Appropriate assistance should be afforded to them.

Urgent Appeals Desk -- Hunger Alert
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
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DETAILED INFORMATION:

Names of persons experiencing starvation:
Eduardo Gregorio Sr. (53), his wife Sylvia (56) and sons Sherwin (20) and Eduardo Jr. (16); Jessie Salazar (27), his wife Lisette (31), two children age two and one.
Location: Poblacion Pigcawayan, Cotabato, Mindanao

There has been starvation and hunger in the province of North Cotabato, Mindanao and several neighboring municipalities in Central Mindanao region following a severe drought that began early this year. It destroyed the farmlands and farm crops of many farmers in Pigcawayan and nearby provinces of Cotabato. Most of the tenant farmers, who have been living in abject poverty, have had to find other work or borrow money from their relatives and merchants, to meet their needs.

Among the affected persons are two families of tenant farmers, the Gregorios and Salazars. They are presently starving and in a desperate hunger situation.

The family of Eduardo Gregorio’s 31-year-old daughter, Lissete, who was married to another tenant farmer, Jessie (27), has now experienced starvation and difficulty of providing food and basic needs. Two of Salazar’s children, aged two and one, have had to eat porridge for their meals. They cannot even afford to buy milk for their children.

One of Eduardo’s sons, Eduardo Jr., has had to stop schooling even though he is a government scholar. The family can no longer afford to provide him an allowance, food and some school requirements. Eduardo Jr. has had to find a job and help his family. The school has cancelled his scholarship because he failed to enroll early this June, instead of providing assistance to allow him to continue his studies.

Although the area where they farm has been declared as a state of calamity, the Gregorios and Salazars have not received any benefits from the calamity fund. The fund is supposed to afford assistance to affected farmers. Furthermore, they have not been placed as a beneficiary to the government’s program on social reform and poverty alleviation.

When the severe drought began, Eduardo Gregorio Sr. tried to plant alternative farm crops to continue his farm. It was not successful as the crops could not survive the severe drought. Although the local government is aware of the situation, the Gregorios and Salazars have not been given a proper orientation on alternative farming, proper use of pesticides, and organic farming.

Gregorio family background:

In 1972, Eduardo and his wife Sylvia Gregrio owned a two-hectare farm, which they developed from a swamp in Pigcawayan. But following the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) in 1980s, the Gregorio family lost their land to a friend who applied for the land title and ownership under the CARP. The Gregorios did not know this, as they had only asked him to look after their farm while they were away.

Since the loss of their land, the Gregrios have been working as farm tenants and have been living in poverty for years. In previous years, while output had been large, the family still received almost nothing because of the income going to the landowner, owner of the rice mill and laborers’ share. They also had to pay off debts. This is not an isolated case. Many farmers have suffered similar situations.

When Eduardo’s children were still young, they had to help in the farm and endure the intense heat of the sun. While going to school, often their breakfast was rice with drops of cooking oil, salt and bagoong (fermented fish). On many occasions, they did not have any food to eat.

Additional information:

In April this year, several farmers belonging to the indigenous peoples community in the high lands had to eat root crops that are deadly if not prepared and cooked properly because of the scarcity of food. Although the government has released funds to assist them, it is not known whether the assistance has reached them or not.

Reports released by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) reveal that 12 of the 17 million children in the Philippines aged two to 10 are malnourished. To address this situation, the department has monitored their feeding program, but only in Manila, Luzon.

According to a report by the National Economic Development Authority (Neda) in 2003, three regions in Mindanao, the CARAGA, Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindandao (Armm) and Western Mindanao, have reported to have highest rate of poverty in the country. These places are where the families or individuals whose income is not enough to cover basic needs are living.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please send a letter to the governor of North Cotabato, Mindanao requesting him to afford assistance to the affected families. The governor has direct supervision in the distribution of assistance from the calamity fund. Please also ask the secretary of the Social Welfare and Development department (DSWD) to consider them as beneficiaries to the poverty alleviation program.

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Dear _________,

PHILIPPINES: Starving families of tenant farmers in Pigcawayan, Cotabato need government attention

I am writing to draw your attention to cases of starvation in two families, the Gregorios and Salazars, whose farmlands and crops have been destroyed by severe drought in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato, Mindanao. I have learned that they have not yet been placed as beneficiaries to the calamity fund or to the government’s poverty alleviation program.

I am aware that although Pigcawayan was placed under a state of calamity, the Gregorios and the Salazars have not been afforded any assistance to help them find alternative means in farming so as to provide food and basic needs for the families. I am sad to learn that two of Lisette Salazar’s (31) children, aged one and two, have had to eat porridge for daily meals. They cannot even afford to buy milk. The families are dependent on their farm for their food, livelihoods and basic needs, which was recently destroyed by severe drought.

I also learned that the Gregorio and Salazar families have not been given proper orientation by the Department of Agriculture (DA) on alternative means of farming. The municipal government of Pigcawayan also has not provided assistance to them, as well as other affected farmers in the area. Although Gregorio’s 16-year-old son is a scholar, he has had to drop out from school in order to help provide for his family. Agriculture is the main source of livelihood for residents in Pigcawayan.

I urge your office to ensure that the Gregorios and Salazars are placed under the government’s poverty alleviation program and as beneficiaries to the calamity program of the local government of North Cotabato.

Further, please conduct a close monitoring in the area to identify those persons who may have experienced similar starvation and hunger. Immediate and appropriate assistance should also be afforded to them without delay.

I trust that you will take action in this matter.


Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Ms. Corazon Juliano-Soliman
Secretary
Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)
Batasan Pambansa Complex, Constitution Hills
Quezon City
PHILIPPINES
Tel: +63 2 931-8101 to 07

2. Mr. Emmanuel Pinol
Provincial Governor
Province of North Cotabato
Capitol Compound, Barangay Amas
Kidapawan City
PHILIPPINES

PLEASE SEND COPIES TO:

1. Ms. Rosalinda Tolosa
Regional Director
Commission on Human Rights (CHR)
Rm. 309 Usman Mampen Building Don Rufino Alonzo St.
9600 Cotabato City
PHILIPPINES
Tel. No. +63 64 482-0384

2. Mr. Bainon G. Karon
Regional Secretary
DSWD- ARMM
ORC Compound, Cotabato City
PHILIPPINES
Tel/Fax: +63 64 421 9717
Direct Line: +63 64 421 1241
E-mail: dswdxii@microweb.com.ph

3. Dr. Nicolas Alipui
Resident representative
United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF)
31/F Yuchengco Tower, RCBC Plaza
Ayala Ave. cor. Sen. Gil J. Puyat Ave.
Makati City, Metro Manila
PHILIPPINES
Tel. no: +63 2 901-0100 / 901-0170
Fax no.  +63 2 892-8126
Email: manila@unicef.org

4. Mr. Jean Ziegler
UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
Attn: Mr. Carlos Villan Duran
Room 4-066, C/o OHCHR
CH-1211 Geneva 10
SWITZERLAND
Tel: +41 22 917 9300
Fax: +41 22 917 9010

5. Mr. Anthony Banbury
Regional Director
World Food Programme
Unit No. 2, 7th Floor
Wave Place Building
55 Wireless Road
Lumpini, Patumwan
Bangkok 10330
THAILAND
Fax: +66 2 6554413


Thank you

Urgent Appeals Desk -- Hunger Alert

Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
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