Press Release
February 22, 2018


CEBU--The prevalence of hunger and the accompanying effects of malnutrition in the Philippines is considered a human rights violation, Sen. Grace Poe said today, as she called on the government to draw up strategies to tackle undernourishment especially among children.

Poe, guest speaker at the 2nd Philippine Environmental Summit held at the Waterfront Hotel here, said Filipinos have the right to be free from hunger.

"I believe that widespread and chronic hunger is a human rights violation. It is an affront to the principle of human dignity," said Poe, an advocate of the feeding program bill, on Thursday, Feb. 22.

Poe went on to pitch her food-related measures that she filed in the Senate. Senate Bill No. 1624 or the proposed Right to Adequate Food Act mandates that every Filipino has equal physical and economic access at all times to adequate food, or the means for its procurement. Adequate food is defined as the presence of food in a quantity and quality sufficient to satisfy the dietary needs of individuals, free from adverse substances, and acceptable within a given culture.

In explaining the rationale of her legislation, Poe explained that according to the 2015 Family Income and Expenditure Survey, the poorest 30% of families spend 59.7% of their income or more than half of what they earn on food expenditures.

Poe, who earlier sought a Senate inquiry into allegations that syndicates continue to operate at the National Food Authority that manipulate rice data to force rice prices to go up, said the "criminal" activity of syndicates also "curtails the means of the public to be able to buy affordable food."

The senator said agriculture plays an important role in achieving food security and feeding the nation.

"We cannot afford to neglect the agricultural sector. Protecting and enhancing our supply of and access to food cannot be done without addressing the challenges faced by the agriculture sector. About a quarter of our nation's population, or 25 million Filipinos, remain poor. Of these Filipinos, 70% reside in rural areas. As such, any inclusive economic program must include reforms and support to the agriculture sector," Poe added.

One way of promoting agriculture among the youth is through Senate Bill No. 1512 or the Tulong Kabataan sa Agrikultura Act that seeks to give scholarship grants to agricultural students and provide credit and start-up capital for young farmers.

"Ang layunin po ng Young Farmers Act ay hikayatin ang mga kabataan na pasukin ang agrikultura. Patanda na ng patanda ang mga magsasaka natin. Ayon sa isang pag-aaral, the average farmer in the country is already 57 years old," said Poe as she pushed for the immediate approval of her measure.

Poe shared the Senate recently passed on third and final reading her pet measure, Senate Bill 1279 or the Masustansyang Pagkain Para sa Batang Pilipino Act which mandates a feeding program for undernourished schoolchildren.

A bicameral conference committee that will tackle the differences in the Senate and Hosue versions of the feeding program bill will be scheduled before sessions adjourn next month.

At the minimum, the feeding program will cover 12 million children in daycare centers and Kindergarten to Grade 6 pupils who will be fed for at least 120 days a year. The program shall also be accompanied by micronutrient supplementation.

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