For Immediate Release
Hunger Pangs of Starving Farmers Met by a Barrage of Bullets
Statement of Zeph Rapollo, Southeast Asia Campaign Coordinator for 350.org
On the morning of April 1, 2016 police forces opened fire at some 5,000 farmers and indigenous Lumad demanding relief and subsidies for farm communities who have been intensely affected by the El Nino dry spell in Kidapawan City.
350 Pilipinas condemns the violent dispersal of protesting farmers, which has resulted in the death of three and 87 missing, by the combined forces of the police and army in Kidapawan province of North Cotabato, this morning.
Around 5,000 farmers and indigenous peoples held a human barricade at the local National Food Authority (NFA) since March 30, 2016 to demand the immediate release of 15,000 sacks of rice to alleviate hunger brought about by crop failures due to three long months of drought.
Governor Emmylou Mendoza refused to engage the protesters in a dialogue because prior notice and appointment from the farmers were not made. Instead of heeding the legitimate calls of the starving farmers, protesters faced a hail of bullets from the armed police and soldiers. After the bloody dispersal, thousands of farmers seeking refuge at the United Methodist Church were then surrounded by police forces.
The conditions that prompted the 3-day blockade gives us a glimpse of what’s ahead if decisive and just actions in addressing climate change, remains in the periphery. The blockade was warranted by the lack of government support for rural communities experiencing the brunt of the prolonged dry spell caused by the El Nino, which as of February, has affected 237,000 hectares of agricultural land. It is interesting to note that the dry spell coincides with the recent scientific findings that this February was the hottest in recorded history. We know that climate change is having an intensifying effect on this El Niño. There is also emerging research that shows climate change is likely to increase the frequency of severe El Niño.
The government’s policy of systematic land grabbing combined with the intensified El Nino pushed our farmers and indigenous peoples to heighten their struggles with sweat and blood in defense of their right to land and life. Our farmers– the country’s food producers— are battered the hardest and are left in poverty and hunger. Civil disobedience will continue to escalate until the government stops playing deaf and blind to the genuine cry of the people.
Hunger, unrest, and the climate crisis— this is why decisive action and climate justice are imperative.
350 is the red line for human beings, the most important number on the planet. The most recent science tells us that unless we can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, we will cause huge and irreversible damage to the earth. But solutions exist. All around the world, a movement is building to take on the climate crisis, to get humanity out of the danger zone and below 350. This movement is massive, it is diverse, and it is visionary. We are activists, scholars, and scientists. We are leaders in our businesses, our churches, our governments, and our schools. We are clean energy advocates, forward-thinking politicians, and fearless revolutionaries. And we are united around the world, driven to make our planet livable for all who come after us.