‘Act swiftly to curb hunger, poverty,’ senators urge gov’t

Published September 28, 2020, 4:36 PM

by Mario Casayuran & Hannah Torregoza

The rising incidence of hunger in the Philippines can only be arrested if the government continues its efforts to provide financial assistance to poor Filipinos.  It is also crucial for the government to allow more businesses to reopen in order to stimulate the economy and regenerate employment.

(Senate of the Philippines / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Senate President Vicente Sotto III led senators in sounding the alarm and urging immediate action from the national government to address this situation.

Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey data shows the number of families that experienced involuntary hunger has jumped to 7.6 million families, which is a new record-high of 30.7 percent, in the September survey from about 5.2 million families, or 20.9 percent July survey.

Sotto said the government should find ways to find and reach out to these families in dire need of the government’s cash assistance program.

“We must go out of our way to identify, ascertain and find these countrymen of ours and must alleviate them from their plight,” Sotto said.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon expressed serious alarm over the increasing number of Filipinos families who experienced hunger amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, warning of a looming hunger crisis if proper measures are not put in place.

“Mahalaga na ngayon ay dahan dahang binubuksan na ang ating ekonomiya at patuloy rin ang pagbigay ng tulong ng gobyerno (It’s important that we slowly open up our economy and we continue the government’s cash aid),” Sen. Christopher Go said in reaction to the latest Social Weather Station (SWS) survey on hunger incidence in the Philippines.

Go also said that aside from the recovery measures under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2, the Departments of Trade and Industry (DTI), Agriculture (DA), Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and Technological Skills and Development Authority (TESDA) and other government agencies have specific programs aimed at helping Filipinos recover from the crisis and ensure food security in the country.

“Unahin po natin ang mga mahihirap at siguraduhin natin na makarating sa kanila ang tulong mula gobyerno para maiwasan ang gutom at tuluyan nating malampasan ang krisis na ito (Let’s prioritize the poor and make sure that the government’s cash aid will reach them to prevent hunger and enable us to overcome this crisis),” he said.

Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara said the result of the SWS survey was expected in light of the extended quarantines the government imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19.

“We should expect an increase in hunger so all hands should be on deck to fight this,” Angara said.

“School-feeding programs of the Department of Education (DepEd) and DSWD should definitely continue and DA and DTI should strive to make sure there is affordable food available to the public all over the country,” he stressed.

Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros urged the government to act swiftly against the growing epidemic of hunger and poverty as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) stalks the country.  She said the degradation of the economy followed closures and business failures of many businesses and employers.   

 ‘’Dumarami rin ang bilang ng Pilipino na kung hindi walang trabaho ay underemployed, underpaid, at kulang ang oras ng trabaho kaya kakarampot ang kita,’’ she added. (The number of Filipinos who are jobless or underemployed, underpaid or shortened work houses leading to small wages.)

‘’Inuulit ko ang panawagan ko para sa pagtalaga ng ‘Balik-Trabaho Czar’ na pangungunahan ang pagbabalik ng trabaho ng milyong-milyong Pilipino ngayong panahon ng krisis,’’ she said. (I reiterate my call for the installation of a ‘’return-to-work Czar) whose duty would be to have millions of Filipinos return to work under the current health crisis.)

‘’More jobs are needed and we need to enable the creation of  new ones such as in the agricultural sector and the home-based BPO industry,  where infection will not be sparked by more intensive economic activity,’’ she said.

She said the budget lopped off from the DSWD feeding programs should be returned to stave off the health crisis brought about by poverty and malnutrition.

“Government should devote all necessary attention and resources to stopping this problem before it gets worse. Kung hindi tayo kikilos, baka maraming Pilipino na ang magkasakit o mamatay sa gutom bago pa man dumating ang bakuna sa COVID-19,’’ she said. (if we do  not act, many Filipinos might get sick or die because of hunger before the COVID-19 vaccine is made available.)