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The urban poor grass-roots organization, Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay), is calling on the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to end its cruel and unjust “cash-for-work” “aid” program for typhoon Pablo victims in Southern Mindanao:
According to Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap, a militant urban poor group, “Yet again, these are clear evidences that donations for the Pablo victims have fallen into the hands of corrupt officials under the Aquino administration,” as it asked the DSWD to immediately terminate the implementation of the cash-for-work program for the Pablo victims.
Under the “cash-for-work” scheme, a farmer may work for 10 days in one hectare of land, for 75 percent of the already low minimum wage fixed by the Regional Tripartite Wage Regulatory Board — a mere P226 per day. The program will last for as long as the below-minimum wage of the farmers can be funded by donations from various donor countries, which amount at present to some $400,000, according to the World Food Program.
“The people don’t need temporary work and inadequate wages coming from donations,” says Gloria Arellano, Kadamay National President.
“In the first place, it is a donation that should be given directly to the victims with no conditions attached to it,” she adds saying that what will help to genuinely address the problems caused by Bagyong Pablo is a solution implemented directly towards a long-term rehabilitation of the affected farmers.”
One such measure would be efforts by Aquino administration to find alternative uses for the vast plantations in Mindanao intended solely for the export of products like bananas and coconuts. “What would benefit the hundreds of thousands of still starving farmers in Mindanao, for much longer than this ‘cash-for-work’ scheme, is letting them work the land directly, and keep the fruits of their own labor,” explains Arellano.
At this point, only a program for genuine agrarian reform — which has been the long-time call of many farmers in the region — will help to give Pablo victims a permanent source of food and livelihood, and allow them to recover from the disaster, adds Kadamay.
“The Aquino administration should be held accountable,” adds Arellano. “Not only have they failed to offer any genuine and lasting aid to the victims of Pablo, large-scale mining and logging operations continue even now.”
The government under President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III has granted no less than 16 permits to large foreign and local logging companies, such as Matuguina Integrated Wood Products Inc, Picop Resources Inc, and La Fortuna Mahogany Inc, who have been given carte blanche to cut down over 82,000 hectares of forests in Baganga, Cateel, Caraga and Manay in Davao Oriental.
The above-named municipalities are among those most heavily affected by supertyphoon Pablo.
Other issues confronting the people of Mindanao are the continuing militarization of communities, leading to violence, and threats made against farmers and other citizens that they will be removed from the list of beneficiaries of the government’s Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) or cash-handout program if they join actions like the January 15 protest.
Such moves are in line with the Aquino administration’s counterinsurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan, but they have further worsened conditions in the region, Kadamay claims.