On the morning of April 1st, 2016, police in Kadapawan City, North Cotabato, Philippines broke the protesters’ line which included 6,000 farmers, and hit them with truncheons and batons, water from firetrucks and bullets on the unarmed crowd. To this day, 5 have been confirmed dead, 116 injured, 89 reported missing, and 2 tortured.
The Philippines, where my family is front, has taking a major hit from climate change. Every year, they have been experiencing deadly typhoons and massive flooding due to climate change, but also heat waves and drought. El Niño has affected several towns including of Kidapawan. According to the Final Report of the National Fact Finding and Humanitarian Mission to Kidapawan City, Crop loss from the dry spell has already hit PhP989 million while rats destroyed PhP84.5 million worth of crops. At least 50,000 hectares of rice and corn farms were destroyed by rising temperatures. More than 25,000 farmers losing their only source of income.
By January this year, the government of North Cotabato had issued a resolution declaring the province under a state of calamity. Yet, drought-affected farmers were not receiving aid. So, at the end March more than 6,000 indigenous farmers organized by Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), decided to take action to demand immediate food aid and other relief.
“The farmers of North Cotabato had every right to protest, asking for aide that should have been distributed to them since the state of calamity was first declared in January 2015.” says Rhondalei Gabuat, Chairman of GABRIELA Seattle USA, “Rice that is grown by these farmers is what feeds this country and yet the very food they grow does not feed their families because of export oriented greed of the Philippine government.”
Gabuat participated in actions across the country organized by BAYAN USA and the International Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) to bring to light the Kidapawan massacre, including direct action at consulates and a 24-hour hunger fast. In Seattle, BAYAN PNW organized a vigil and banner drop on Jose Rizal Bridge, with more than 100 attending and speakers from faith, climate justice, students, and farming communities.
“We ask everyone to stand in solidarity with the Kidapawan farmers and all farmers in the world who struggle for their basic human rights and climate justice.” says Gabuat.