Thousands of protesting farmers paralyze Cotabato–Davao highway

Thousands of farmers from the towns of North Cotabato staged a picket along the highway to demand the immediate release of rice and calamity funds after suffering five long months from drought and El Niño | KIlab Photo
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KIDAPAWAN CITY — Riled by the severe effects of the drought-spawned El Nino phenomenon, some 6,000 farmers trooped here Wednesday and blocked motorists plying the Cotabato–Davao highway on efforts to dramatize their misery and prompt the provincial government to hasten measures on cushioning the effects of the extreme weather condition.

Currently, traffic flow is totally paralyzed with hundreds of vehicles and commuters alike stranded on both sides of the 220-kilometer freeway connecting Cotabato and Davao regions.

The farmers, who positioned themselves in front of the National Food Authority warehouse situated along the highway, came from the remote villages of this city and the towns of Arakan, Antipas, President Roxas, Magpet, and Makilala, all in North Cotabato province.

Pedro Arnado, chair of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP)–North Cotabato chapter, said they are urging the presence of the Governor Emmylou Mendoza for swift government interventions on resolving their immediate needs.

The peasants are demanding free and dole-out distribution of rice; subsidy of vegetable seeds and drought tolerant root crops; increase in the price of local farm produce; and total suspension of military operations in the province, among others.

The drought was felt in the province since November last year and has so far exacted over PHP1-billion damage to agricultural crops.

Jessie Enid, executive assistant to the governor, said Mendoza refused to appear before the protesters due to the absence of a prior notice and appointment from the farmers.

Meantime, hundreds of police and security personnel were deployed around the NFA compound to prevent any illegal intrusion. (PNA) FFC/NYP/JAGT

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