Farmers in South Upi, Maguindanao, get El Niño aid

Davao City—Relief packs containing rice, medicines, and seedlings were given to farmers affected by El Niño in South Upi—a major rice producer in the southern Philippine province of Maguindanao.

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Humanitarian Action and Response Team and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) distributed the relief packs to 1,295 families in Barangay Romunggaob, South Upi. The humanitarian team and the DSWD are nearing their completion of relief distribution to 13,984 families in town.

Actor Robin Padilla accompanied the distribution team, as well as members of the Philippine Red Cross.

“The people need rice, and it’s sad that in places like Kidapawan, people still have to go down the mountains, they still need to protest,” Padilla said during the short program prior to relief distribution.

“There is no need to resort to violence so that your voices will be heard. Let us choose to hold onto the peace we have gained and let us help each other. Together with the regional government, we are ready to help,” he added in a statement released by the ARMM Bureau of Public Information.

Celina Urangkaya, a resident of South Upi, said “harvest has been scare, if there’s any at all.”

“It’s been a difficult time,” Urangkaya said. “Sometimes we only get to eat at night, sometimes we make do with not eating at all. If we can’t find cassava to eat, then we don’t eat. We’ll sleep instead.”

She said her community had felt the effects of El Niño beginning January.

Relief distribution started in mid-April, after the ARMM declared a state of calamity. The ARMM is composed of the central Mindanao provinces of Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, and the southwestern island Mindanao provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

“The focus of the regional government now is to provide their basic needs such as food, water, medicines, and seedlings,” ARMM Executive Secretary Laisa Alamia said.

The municipalities of Ampatuan, Buldon, Barira, North Upi, South Upi, Montawal, Shariff Aguak, Pagalungan, Datu Piang and Shariff Saydona Mustapha in Maguindanao bore the brunt of the dry spell. In Lanao del Sur drought damage was severe in Poona Bayabao, Taraka and Wao.

The Regional Planning and Development Office said the drought affected 19,359 hectares planted with rice, corn and high-value commercial crops in 84 municipalities with 462,740 residents in the region.

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Manuel Cayon has written about Mindanao for several national newspapers for more than two decades, the most part of it on conflict-reporting, and on the political, insurgency and civil rights front. He also scribbles on the religious and human rights issues for the Thailand-based Catholic news agency as well as he strings for several wire agencies. His stint with then TODAY newspaper started his business reporting obtaining in Mindanao, continuing to this day with BusinessMirror. He received citations and awards, including two Biotechnology awards for reporting. He was a fellow of the US International Visitors’ Program Leadership in 2007 on conflict resolution and alternative dispute resolution. He attended college at the Mindanao State University and the Ateneo de Davao University


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