In celebration of the World Food Day, more than 200 members from the basic sectors of the National Food Coalition attended the World Food Day celebration in Malacañang, calling the President to stop hunger and poverty in the Philippines and provide adequate food for all.
It is ironic that in the Philippines there is growth without development. The Philippine economy has been the second fastest-growing in Asia in recent years behind China. That’s the bright side. Hunger and poverty is the other side of the picture. The short explanation for this ironic situation is that economic growth hasn’t resulted in the improvement in the lives of ordinary Filipinos who account for majority of our countrymen – the workers, farmers, the urb
an poor, and fishermen.
The government’s latest income and expenditure survey, which came out last year, says 26.3 percent of Filipinos are considered poor with 12.1 percent extremely poor. The government said that is an improvement over the 27.9 percent and 13.4 percent, respectively, three years earlier. However, 26 percent is still over a fourth of the population. One of four Filipinos is poor.
A separate survey also during the same period says childhood stunting affected 33.4 percent, or one-third of all Filipino children under 5 years. Stunting is an indicator of chronic malnutrition. Malnutrition and stunting are largely caused by poverty and these also undermine efforts to reduce poverty and stall economic growth. The food threshold for a family of five in 2015 was PhP 6,365. That means each member of the family has to be provided daily with at least PhP 42.43 worth of food that satisfies the daily nutritional requirement set by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute to ensure that a person remains “economically and socially productive.” I leave it to your imagination what kind of food 42 or 43 pesos can buy that can sustain you for a day.
Previous administrations have tried to reduce poverty and promote inclusive growth, but, to put it bluntly, they failed to make a dent on poverty and hunger. What we continue to see is scarcity of decent employment especially for many of our youth and women. Unemployment and underemployment are degrading the capacity of many Filipinos to meet their own needs in dignity and to enjoy their human rights, including their right to adequate food and nutrition.
According to Aurea G. Miclat-Teves, president of FIAN Philippines and convener of the National Food Coalition believe that the following should be in the priority agenda of the president:
- Approve a law upholding the right to food and nutrition (RTFN), which is a specific measure that could compel the government to provide adequate food for all Filipinos at all times. This could also serve as a legal back-up to any economic and social program on hunger and poverty. The RTFN is not explicitly recognized in the Philippine constitution, unlike political rights and civil liberties. Various laws pertaining to food are non-complementary, inadequately and improperly implemented, incoherent and sometimes in conflict with each other. We earnestly request the Duterte administration to certify as urgent the Right to Adequate Food Framework Bill or the Zero Hunger Bill now pending in the House and the Senate. The bill clearly defines the right to food as a legal right and seek to end hunger progressively in ten years. It will also rationalize all food-related measures.
- Legislate a new law on land reform, to properly implement the law on indigenous peoples’ rights and the law to modernize agriculture and fisheries. More than a decade since their passage, these three measures that should have advanced social reform and uplift the lives of farmers and fisherfolks, who account for majority of the nation’s labor force. Indigenous peoples’ rights are disrespected as big mining companies violate their ancestral domain, destroying their land and dislocating their communities. The twin goals of achieving equity and productivity have been sidelined, leaving our marginalized sectors especially our indigenous peoples, farmers and fisherfolks, still hungry and impoverished.
- Proper disaster risk reduction, especially for a country that is often visited by natural calamities on account of our geographic location in the Pacific Ring of Fire and as the doorway to powerful typhoons heading to Asia. As we all know, poverty is magnified or exacerbated by disasters. This is often tragically dramatized by the slow flow of emergency aid to the poor who suffer the most from any disaster. In embarking on disaster risk reduction, the Philippine government should consider climate change mitigation from a more comprehensive right to food perspective. In this manner, specific attention is given to the needs of the most marginalized sectors whenever calamity strikes.
The irony of growth without development should not be the fate of a country like the Philippines which is endowed with natural resources and a hardworking and innovative people. Leadership is key, but leadership without direction is just as bad as the absence of leadership. As anti-hunger and anti-poverty advocates, we want to help the nation’s leaders push the right policies regarding these problems. We believe taking concrete steps to fulfill these three major concerns will make a strong headway toward addressing poverty and hunger.
President Rodrigo Duterte should certify the Zero Hunger Bill as urgent and pass it into law to fight hunger and poverty which is tantamount to having the Right to Adequate Food (RTAF) that will address the growing hunger and impoverishment of the marginalize sector of our country.