Solons seek enactment of a ‘National Food Security Act’ to alleviate hunger and poverty

By on January 31, 2016

(Malacanang stock photo)
(Malacanang stock photo)

MANILA—Lawmakers are pushing for the enactment of a “National Food Security Act” that will put in place a system of food distribution and procurement process to address the nutritional needs of the people and alleviate hunger and poverty in the country.

Reps. Rufus B. Rodriguez (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro City) and his younger brother Maximo B. Rodriguez, Jr. (Party-list, ABAMIN) jointly raised the proposal as they noted that while there are government programs currently addressing hunger and malnutrition in the country, these are not enough, as eradicating hunger needs a more systematic action.

The elder Rodriguez said what government needs is an integrated anti-hunger mechanism that also aims to alleviate poverty.

“The State must take action to combat hunger and poverty, including the institutionalization of a National Feeding Program, the streamlining of food procurement and food distributions systems, and the creation of a structured demands system that ensures and raises the income of poor people,” said Rodriguez.

The lawmaker said the creation of food distribution system “ensures and raises the income of poor people who are mostly small-scale food producers incapable of competing with big industry producers, in the hope that the produce that free Filipinos from hunger are the same produce that free our people from poverty.”

Rodriguez, chairman of the House Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsa Moro Basic Law, further said that as a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the country commits to provide every Filipino access to adequate food and nutrition and to ensure that every family has a way to raise their income above the poverty threshold.

“Article 25, Section 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which the country is a signatory, provides that everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food,” said Rodriguez.

Furthermore, the 1987 Constitution in Article II, Section 9 mandates the State to free the people from poverty while Article II, Section15 mandates the State to protect and promote the right to health of the people. Likewise, Article XIII, Section 5 mandates the State to provide adequate financial production, marketing and other support services to the agriculture sector.

House Bill 6385, or the proposed “National Food Security Act,” now pending at the House committee on agriculture and food chaired by Rep. Mark Llandro L. Mendoza (4th District, Batangas), provides it is the State policy develop, create and implement a nationwide feeding program to alleviate poverty in the country.

The National Feeding Program shall aim to alleviate hunger and malnutrition for children ages zero to 13 years old.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), in coordination with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Department of Health (DOH), shall establish a nationwide database that identifies groups and/or individuals that have the least access to proper nutrition. The database shall identify the most vulnerable groups and/or individuals as beneficiaries.

The DOH, in consultation with the DSWD, shall create a system of distribution through the Barangay Health Workers of food packets for those targeted by the system created in the Act. The said food packets shall supplement the nutritional and dietary needs of children aged zero to one year old.

The DSWD shall ensure that children aged two to five receive the proper nutrients and diet while under their care. The DSWD may consult with the National Nutrition Council (NNC) to meet the proper nutritional and dietary needs of the children.

On the part of the Department of Education (DepEd), it shall ensure that students from Kindergarten to Grade 4 are given the proper meals during school hours.

The bill also mandates the government to ensure that 30 percent or more of the supplies needed to implement the National Feeding Program are produced from small-scale producers. The Department of Agriculture (DA) shall keep and regularly update a list of Small-Scale Producers.

The Small-Scale Producers shall enter a negotiated procurement with the government under the guidelines of the Government Procurement Policy Board (GPPB) as specified in the Act.

The bill also provides for the creation of a National Food Security Council (NFSC), which shall check, and balance the organization of the food security system. It shall be an attached agency to the Office of the President.

The NFSC shall be headed by a chairperson to be appointed by the President for a six-year term. It shall have as members representatives from the DA, DSWD, DepEd, Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Health (DOH), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), civil society organizations involved in food security or hunger alleviation, and small-scale producers group.