Onion farmers in Occidental Mindoro seek the help of vice-presidential aspirant Kiko Pangilinan as pestilence wiped out their crops and importation, their income. PHOTOS COURTESY OF TEAM KIKO PANGILINAN
SAN JOSE, Occidental Mindoro – Vice-presidential candidate Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan Friday vowed to help the farmers here who have lost millions of pesos worth of onions were severely damaged by “Harabas” pest.
Pangilinan met with a group of farmers in Barangay Magbay of this municipality to determine the extent of the damage inflicted on local onion farmers who are seeking national government intervention.
“Ang gagawin natin immediately, kakausapin natin si [Agriculture] Secretary William Dar at ipapadala natin itong mga pictures ng mga sibuyas gaya ng ginawa natin sa mga farmers sa Baguio,” Pangilinan said.
During their interaction, the farmers told the senator the hardships they face due to pest they call Harabas and the rising cost of farm inputs.
“Walang katapusang hirap po ang magsasaka. Dito po sa sakahan ng palay, di na nga po kami nakapagbayad ng utang sa sibuyas, paano pa po kami makakautang para sa palay kung hindi kami bibigyan ng subsidy ng gobyerno?” a woman farmer said.
Earlier, the Office of San Jose Mayor Romulo Festin announced its plan to declare a state of calamity after the prices of onion dropped to record low.
Farmers blamed both the pest and the unabated smuggling of onions from China.
The pest has affected an estimated 465 farmers from 17 barangays here.
Aside from talking to Secretary Dar, Pangilinan also told the farmers that he will confer shortly with Congresswoman Josephine Ramirez-Sato of the lone district of Occidental Mindoro to discuss how the Sagip Saka Law would be able to help those affected by the onion pest.
“Itong bagong batas na isinusulong natin, ang Sagip Saka, wala nang public bidding pag bumili ang gobyerno direkta sa magsasaka,” said the senator who authored the law.
He explained that Sagip Saka was signed into law in 2019 and was utilized by the national government at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Napilitang gamitin ng gobyerno noong lockdown. So binibili ng gobyerno lahat ng pagkain diretso na sa mga magsasaka,” he added.
In his hour-long talk with the farmers, Pangilinan also pointed to the “untouchables” in and outside government who are behind the smuggling of onions and the manipulation of its market price.