House bill seeks to end hunger in 10 years

The bill seeks to establish a comprehensive framework to ensure the right of every Filipino to access adequate food at all times

FOOD FOR ALL. Rep. Barry Gutierrez presents the Right to Adequate Food Bill during an anti-hunger mobilization organized by the National Food Coalition at the House of Representatives. Photo courtesy of Barry Gutierrez's Facebook Page

MANILA, Philippines – Is achieving zero hunger in the Philippines in 10 years achievable? A bill filled by 4 congressmen aims to make it so.

On Feb 3, 2014 Akbayan Representatives Barry Gutierrez and Walden Bello, together with Dinagat Representative Kaka Bag-ao and Quezon City District 6 Representative Kit Belmonte filled House Bill 3795, also known as the Right to Adequate Food Framework Act of 2014.

The bill seeks to establish a comprehensive framework to ensure the right of every Filipino to access adequate food at all times.

In the Philippines, about 15.6 million people are suffering from hunger and undernourishment, that is 16.2% of the population according to the 2013 report on The State of Food Security Around the World by the United Nation Food and Agricultural Organization (UN FAO). 

According to UN FAO data, the prevalence of undernourishment is on a downward trend, but here in the Philippines there has been a slight increase since 2006. Now plateauing at 16.2%, hunger remains a serious issue in the country. (READ: SWS survey: More household poor, hungry at the end of 2013) 

The bill, said Gutierrez, addresses the government’s need for “a coherent and consistent direction, particularly one incorporating the human rights based approach, in its efforts to effectively address food and food-related issues such as poverty.”

Provisions

With its enactment, The Right to Adequate Food Framework Act of 2014 mandates the government to establish a clear set of policies to end hunger in 10 years.

Sec 4 of the bill says: “The right to adequate food is realized when every man, woman and child, alone or in community with others, has physical and economic access at all times to adequate food, or means for its procurement.”

Certain provisions in the bill that will help achieve food security for all include: increasing the agricultural productivity of small farmers and indigenous peoples by ensuring them the right to their land and providing technical, financial, and material assistance; increasing the amount of land used for food production; improving poor communities’ ownership of land and access to resources; strengthening the role of women in food production; and the right to adequate food response during times of disasters and emergencies.

The bill also calls for the establishment of the Commission on the “right to adequate food,” an implementing agency attached to the Philippine Commission on Human Rights to oversee the bill’s overall effectiveness and ensure its compliance.

Unified framework

This is not the first bill to be filed to address the problem of hunger.

Article II (Declaration of State Principles and Policies) in the 1987 Philippine Constitution mentions an improved  quality of life, a guarantee of the full respect of human rights, and the promotion of comprehensive agrarian reform. It also alludes to government’s responsibility to provide every citizen the right to food, though it is not explicitly stated.

Local legislation such as RA 9700 (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms), RA 8435 (Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act), and RA 7607 (Magna Carta for Small Farmers) to name a few, also provide a general consensus to work towards ensuring food security.

The Philippines is also a signatory to international declarations such as the Convention of the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which also contain provisions for the right to food for all.

While many legal instruments already exist that aim to address hunger in the Philippines, the lack of a united framework presents problems between policy and implementation. 

“So far, however, the government has only (been) able to institute incremental measures to promote food security,” said Gutierrez.

The passing of this law will be a step towards harmonizing the provisions of all existing laws related to the Filipino’s right to food. It also holds the government accountable to see that this right is fulfilled at the specified deadline of 10 years. – Rappler.com