MANILA – To address the “serious” problems of hunger and malnutrition in the country, Senator Francis Pangilinan has filed a bill which among other things seeks to establish a National Feeding Program for children 13 years old and younger.
“Nag-uumpisa ang malnutrisyon sa pagka-sanggol, at lumalabas ang epekto nito hanggang sa pagtanda. Tungkulin ng pamahalaan na maibsan ang gutom. Sa isang National Feeding Program, nilalayon nating tugunan ito at ang kakambal nitong kahirapan (Malnutrition starts as early as infancy and its effects can last until adulthood. The State has the obligation to alleviate hunger. In a National Feeding Program, we aim to address this and its twin, poverty),” Pangilinan said.
Senate Bill 1028, or the proposed National Food Security Act, seeks to establish: an Infant Feeding Program for babies 0 to 12 months and several Supplementary Feeding Programs for older children in supervised neighborhood play areas, day-care centers, pre-schools, and elementary.
At the same time, the bill specifies that food should come from farmers, mandating the creation of “a structured demand that ensures and raises the income of poor people, who are mostly farmers.”
“Sa ganitong paraan, masisiguro na ang ating kabataan ay di lang napapakain nang mabuti, kundi pati ang ating mga mahihirap na mangingisda at magsasaka ay magkakaroon ng regular na pagkakakitaan (In doing so, it will be ensured not only that our children are properly fed but also that the poorest fishermen, farmers, and agricultural workers are assured of a regular livelihood),” he said.
According to the “2015 Regional Overview of Food Insecurity in Asia and the Pacific” study conducted by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UN FAO), about 17.5 million Filipinos are found to be undernourished and the development of 33.6% of the children stunted.
In 2015, the Philippines received a Global Hunger Index of 20.1 indicating “a serious level of hunger.” The country also failed to achieve the World Food Summit (WFS) target of halving the number of undernourished people by 2015. At the same time, 19% of the whole population live with a daily budget of less than P50.
“Alam natin ang epekto ng malnutrisyon at ang pagpapatuloy nito ng pag-ikot ng gulong ng kahirapan: walang lakas para makapagtrabaho, madalas manghina; hindi lumalaki nang gaano ang bata, madalas di pa nakakapasok sa eskwelahan; madalas magkasakit na lumalala at nauuwi sa kamatayan; naipapasa ang pagka-malnourished ng nanay sa kanyang anak, (We know the effects of malnutrition and how it contributes to the cycle of poverty: reduces the capacity for physical activity and hence the productive potential of the labor of those who suffer from hunger; impairs people’s ability to develop physically and mentally, retarding child growth, reducing cognitive ability and seriously inhibiting school attendance and performance; causes serious long-term damage to health, linked to higher rates of disease and premature death; and passes from generation to generation as hungry mothers give birth to underweight children who start life with a handicap),” said Pangilinan, who chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food.
High levels of hunger and poverty also contribute to social and political instability, which further undermines government capacity to reduce poverty, he said.
“Alam natin na kahirapan ang sanhi ng gutom, pero ang kakulangan sa nutrisyon ay mismong sanhi rin ng kahirapan (Although poverty is undoubtedly a cause of hunger, lack of adequate and proper nutrition itself is an underlying cause of poverty),” Pangilinan said.
Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life, he said.
“Sama-sama nating kamitin ang food security para sa lahat ng Pilipino (Let us work together to achieve food security for all Filipinos),” Pangilinan said.