Press Release
September 2, 2016


Sen. Grace Poe today urged Malacañang to certify as urgent twin nutrition measures aimed at establishing a free lunch feeding program in all public schools and providing children full support beginning conception up to two years old, on the back of a new research suggesting that the Philippine economy is losing P328 billion a year due to malnutrition.

Poe, who filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 160 or the proposed Libreng Pananghalian sa Pampublikong Paaralan Act and SB 161 or the First 1,000 Days Act, cited the need to immediately convene the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) and include the two anti-hunger measures among the administration's priority bills.

"The government must immediately act to prioritize nutrition legislation to prevent further economic losses. Investing in children is also investing in the future of our country," said Poe.

According to a report entitled "Cost of Hunger: Philippines" released by Save the Children on August 30, childhood stunting--the most prevalent form of undernutrition that has permanent effects on a child's growth and development--cost the Philippines almost three percent of its gross domestic product and had affected workforce productivity and education.

The overall economic loss of P328 billion consists of P166.5 billion worth of lost income as a result of lower level education achieved by the working population who suffered from childhood stunting, P160 billion in lost productivity due to premature deaths among children who would have been members of our current working-age population, and P1.23 billion in additional education costs to cover grade repetitions linked to undernutrition.

"The report is very alarming and implies that malnutrition is rampant despite various government interventions. The report reveals yet another crisis that we are facing, its damaging effects. We need to enact public health laws that are comprehensive to ensure that children are protected and supported," Poe added.

Cabinet officials earlier said a LEDAC Summit may be held next month or in October to discuss the administration's priority measures and facilitate swift approval of bills in both houses of Congress.

Palace-certified measures enable lawmakers to rush approval, as Congress can also simultaneously pass them on second and third reading on the same day and do away with the required three-day interval in between approvals required in the Constitution.

SB 160 seeks to institutionalize a free nutri-meals program for children enrolled in the K-12 public schools in a bid to improve their health, attendance and academic performance, while SB 161 provides maternal and child health care program in every barangay, which includes nutrition and family counselling, proper breastfeeding of children, nutritional support for pregnant and nursing mothers, treatment of malnourished children, and other timely interventions.

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