Inquirer Headlines: Nation

A World with Extreme Poverty is a World of Insecurity.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Hunger stalks Cordillerans, say health, economic execs

By Desiree Caluza
Philippine Daily Inquirer-Northern Luzon Bureau
Last updated 01:24am (Mla time) 07/19/2007

BAGUIO CITY -- Although the Cordillera is identified as an agricultural region, its residents are suffering from hunger and malnutrition, according to health officials and economists here.

Juan Ngalob, regional director of National Economic and Development Authority in the Cordillera, said even if the region had many rice and vegetable farms, many of its people suffer from hunger because of inaccessibility to food due to insurgency and bad infrastructure.

He said agricultural lands that produce rice and vegetables have limited access to the provinces and villages engaged in the food trade.

Dr. Michaela Defiesta, regional coordinator of the National Nutrition Council (NNC), said the provinces identified as “food poor” are Mt. Province, Kalinga, Abra, Apayao and Ifugao.

Benguet, Cordillera’s vegetable capital, was not on the list.

Target areas

Defiesta said the “food poor” provinces are the target areas for the implementation of the government’s anti-hunger mitigation program (AHMP).

“We are involving the Department of Public Works and Highway in this program because we want food to reach the people. We are also campaigning for livelihood programs,” she said.

She said President Macapagal-Arroyo had asked the NNC to include non-government organizations, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and the military in the program.

Dr. Amelita Pangilinan, chief of the health operations division of the Department of Health in the Cordillera, said the government does not only want to address hunger in the region but also the lack of food.

Thomas Killip, presidential assistant for Cordillera affairs, said poor infrastructure and insurgency contributed to lack of food in region. But he was bothered by the malnutrition of many people which, he said, should be the concern of all.


“There is malnutrition because of wrong kinds of food. One may have too much rice ... but he may lack vegetable in his diet,” he said.

Killip said the local government should enhance the production of traditional rice, vegetable and fish varieties that are rich in nutritive values.

There are self-sufficient agricultural communities but the size of arable lands is decreasing due to increasing population, he said.