February 18, 2016
Food and nutrition security advocates challenged candidates to end hunger and malnutrition, support small farmers, achieve food sufficiency, and address the threat of climate change and natural disasters to food and nutrition.
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) led the call in a press forum in Quezon City, lamenting that millions of Filipinos, especially the rural poor, continue to suffer from hunger and malnutrition.
“Steady economic growth has not translated to the improvement of lives of many Filipinos. While there is reduction in the number of people experiencing hunger, there are still a lot that needs to be done to achieve food and nutrition security in the country,” said Romeo Dongeto, PLCPD executive director.
A recent Social Weather Stations survey showed that the 2015 average hunger rate at 13.4 was lowest since 2004. The 2013 National Nutrition Survey, however, found that one in 10 adult Filipinos suffers from chronic energy deficiency. The same survey also showed high prevalence of undernutrition among children – 19.9 percent of children aged 0-5 years were underweight.
The Philippine Coalition of Advocates for Nutrition Security (PhilCAN) attributed hunger and malnutrition in the country to various factors, including natural disasters, climate change and poor governance.
Moreover, the Pambansang Kaisahan ng mga Magbubukid sa Pilipinas (PKMP) lamented the sorry state of agriculture in the country, contributing to high prevalence of poverty and hunger among small farmers and rural communities.
“Ang isyu at usapin ng kasiguruhan sa pagkain ay isang pangunahing pangangailan na dapat tugunan ng kasalukuyang pamahalaan. Subalit matapos ang anim taon, nanatiling bigo ang gobyernong Aquino na kagutuman sa kanayunan sapagkat malinaw ang tunguhin ng pamahalaan na mas pangunahing suportahan ang agribusiness sa halip na kalingain ang maliitang pagsasaka,” said Nestor Diego, Secretary General of PKMP.
(Addressing food security should be top priority of the government. After 6 years, the Aquino administration has failed to end hunger, particularly in the countryside. It is clear that this administration favors agribusiness more than it cares for small farmers.)
Meanwhile, Dir. Angel Imperial, spokesperson of the National Food Authority, the main government agency in charge of rice, the country’s staple food, said that they will keep close watch to make sure that rice supply in the country remains sufficient, and prices are stable and relatively low.
“The nation’s food security cannot be overemphasized. After all, food security is synonymous to national security,” added Dir. Imperial.
The 2016 election is a critical opportunity for Filipinos to choose the leaders who will ensure food and security in the country. This will require a commitment to address income inequality and rural poverty by investing in rural economies to increase employment, among others. This will also require a commitment to reform policies and governance structures on food and nutrition security, Dongeto said.
“Filipino voters should elect a government that will deliver on our Sustainable Development Goals commitment and take all necessary measures to address inequalities and emerging issues like climate change to ensure that all people, particularly the poor and vulnerable, are able to access, avail, and consume safe, nutritious and sufficient food at all times,” Dongeto stressed.
For his part, Diego said that it is important that the government support small farmers. “Ang dapat gawin ng pamahalaan upang matugunan ang kasiguruhan sa pagkain at kahirapan ng magbubukid sa kanayunan ay suportahan ang maliliit na magbubukid sa pamamagitan ng seryosong pagpapatupad ng repormang agraryo, itigil ang land conversion sa lupang agrikultural, suporta sa presyo ng produktong palay at pataasin ang kakayahan ng NFA na bilhin ng mas marami ang ani ng magsasaka upang di mapagsamantalahan ng mga traders,” he said.
(To achieve food security and end rural poverty, the government should support small farmers by implementing agrarian reform, preventing conversion of prime agricultural lands to commercial use, influencing the farm-gate price of rice, and strengthening the mandate of the NFA to buy local produce and protect farmers from traders.)
Furthermore, Dyan Amee Rodriguez, PhilCAN vice lead convener, emphasized that the solution to hunger and malnutrition lies in the collective and concerted effort of all stakeholders, including the private sector.
“We can eradicate malnutrition through consistent and scaled up initiatives, and use of accurate, timely and credible information in designing and monitoring interventions,” she said.