Press Release
July 15, 2016

Pimentel: Right to adequate food is inviolable

Incoming Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III today said he filed a bill to consolidate all laws on food and set up a national system that ensures food access for everyone amid grim data showing nearly 14 percent of households suffered from involuntary hunger last year.

"The right of the people to adequate food must be protected and kept inviolable always", said Pimentel, who noted that although the Philippines is an agricultural nation, "many Filipinos are still experiencing hunger."

Senate Bill No. 111 proposes a "framework law" that would "harmonize all food programs and ensure that they are maintained over time," said Pimentel, president of the administration party PDP Laban.

The framework law, he further said, would create a Commission on the Right to Adequate Food to enforce the laws relating to food and set specific targets towards the goal of eradicating hunger.

The Commission would be an attached agency of the Commission on Human Rights.

"The sad fact remains that we cannot seem to feed our own people," said Pimentel, adding that this right is not a matter of charity but a legal entitlement.

Solving hunger and the country's food problem requires not just a stop-gap measure of doling out food to the hungry, Pimentel said, but involves a multiple-front approach.

These include concrete steps that would enable the agricultural sector to achieve higher levels of productivity and sustainability, promote access to economic growth, and recognize food as an essential human right, said Pimentel.

Food inadequacy is further exacerbated by the fact that people do not get the right amount of nutrition for the human body to function properly and stay healthy, he said, citing recent studies show.

One is a United Nations fact-finding report, stating that "accessing adequate and nutritious food continues to be a challenge across most of the country both in terms of under and over nutrition, with women and children faring worst."

The problem must be treated with urgency, Pimentel said, citing the UN report which says that "the effects of under-nutrition are irreversible" and the "lack of access to adequate and nutritious food is having a detrimental effect on future generations."

The so-called "Kidapawan incident," he said, "is a grim reflection of our continued inability to provide food security to our people."

For three days last March, thousands of farmers blockaded the Davao-Cotabato Highway in Kidapawan City to protest government's failure to help them mitigate the effects of a prolonged drought that hit their farms.

The demonstration ended violently with a number of protesters who had demanded supplies of rice killed or injured when police using guns and batons broke up the protest.

He said his proposed bill provides a framework within which hunger would be addressed in an organized way, and through which hunger may be ended.

The proposed Commission will also be tasked to receive complaints and investigate all forms of violations of the law and provide legal measures on the protection of the right to adequate food.

He said it would also be empowered to establish a continuing program of research, education and information to enhance respect for the primacy of the right to adequate food and recommend to Congress ways to promote the same.

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