Inquirer Headlines: Nation

A World with Extreme Poverty is a World of Insecurity.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

GMA accepts SWS poll results, releases P500M to stem hunger

Ok, it's good that PGMA acknowledges that there exists a high incidence of poverty and hunger and budget has been released for "programs" addressing the concern. However, these actions are still "band-aid" initiatives in addressing the issue. Eradication of Extreme Poverty and Hunger is the first of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), but as UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan puts it: "The Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), particularly the Eradication of Extreme Poverty and Hunger cannot be achieve if questions of Population and Reproductive Health are not squarely addressed."

It's basic - in a family where there are more mouths to feed, the lesser food each mouth receives.

If the government is serious in its mission, access to RH care and services and a comprehensive population management program/policy must be passed and implemented soon before every Filipino "miss meals"; not because we are too busy, but simply because we have to, and there's nothing we can do about it.
GMA accepts SWS poll results, releases P500M to stem hunger
By Juliet Labog-Javellana
Inquirer Breaking News: Last updated 06:13pm (Mla time) 03/24/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has finally accepted the results of the survey on hunger by the Social Weather Stations and ordered the release of P500 million for "emergency hunger mitigation'' in areas found to have a high incidence of hunger among the people.

After questioning the SWS survey on hunger, which showed that one in every five Filipino families or 3.4 million households have gone hungry at least once in the last three months, the President apparently decided to confront the problem.

Presidential Management Staff chief Cerge Remonde said in an announcement he made on a government radio station Saturday that the President ordered the release of the money after convening the National Nutrition Council in MalacaƱang on Friday.

Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. said that with the signing of the P1.126 trillion 2007 national budget, the government is now ready to release P10 billion for the rehabilitation of typhoon-ravaged areas in Bicol, Southern Tagalog, and some parts of the Visayas.

The President ordered the release of P500 million for the food-for-school, food-for-work, and for the feeding programs of parishes and non-governmental organizations, Remonde said. He said the program would benefit areas identified by the SWS as having a high incidence of hunger, mostly in Metro Manila.

Arroyo said in her roundtable forum Saturday that the government's barangay (village) food terminals, or "bagsakan'' centers, where the poor can avail themselves of lower-priced food and other basic commodities, would benefit some 200,000 of 700,000 hungry families in Metro Manila by next month.

“The result of the SWS survey is a wake-up call (for the administration) because the economy is really doing well. For the President, what is the use of the economy doing good if people are hungry,” Remonde said in a phone interview with the Inquirer.

According to Remonde, during the two-hour NNC meeting at Malacanang's Aguinaldo Room, some Cabinet members continued to question the veracity of the SWS findings during Friday’s two-hour meeting of the National Nutrition Council at Malacanang's Aguinaldo Room. The February 24 to 27 SWS survey also found that the problem of hunger worsened in Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon.

"While there are some Cabinet members who questioned the survey, the President said, `Let's not quibble over that. As long as there's one person who is hungry the government should do something about that,''' Remonde said.

"She cracked the whip on all the frontline agencies, including the Department of Agriculture, to boost food production,'' Remonde said.

Among those called to Friday’s meeting were the secretaries of agriculture, social welfare and development, health, trade and industry, and education, Remonde said.

He said the President designated Health Secretary Francisco Duque III as her point man to oversee the implementation of the "emergency hunger mitigation'' program.

Remonde said the government intervention would be through the food-for-school program, where bags of rice and other food items are given to school children as an incentive to their attending school; the food-for-work program where the poor and unemployed are hired by the government to sweep the streets and do other community work; and the food-for-parishes program of the Catholic Church and other religious groups and organizations serving meals to children or adults in various parts of Metro Manila.

While Remonde said the President ordered the emergency hunger mitigation program in response to the SWS survey, the President herself seemed to doubt the SWS findings in Metro Manila.

After the SWS survey came out, Arroyo said the incidence of hunger could also be attributed to the "spending pattern'' of the people, whom she asked to "spend on the basics first'' before spending on luxuries. A day later, she questioned the question posed by the SWS to its respondents, saying she herself had experienced hunger at least once.