MANILA, Philippines – What hinders the Philippines from ending hunger and malnutrition?
According to several civil society organizations, the apparent lack of a “clear-cut government policy on the right to adequate food” is pushing Filipinos deeper into the hunger trap.
“The government’s lack of rights-based national food strategies that could have helped eradicate this dire situation should stop,” Mary Anne Manahan of the Focus of The Global South said.
Survey results of the Social Weather Stations (SWS) showed that the prevalence of hunger is increasing. Between 1999 and 2014, the self-rated hunger data increased to 18.3%. Meanwhile, an estimated 3.8 million Filipino families went hungry in 2014. (READ: How hungry was the Philippines in 2014?)
“The figures show clear violations of the right to adequate food of the Filipino citizenry,” Manahan emphasized. “This is clearly a concern the government must address.”
Need for a national strategy
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food Hilal Elver echoed the sentiments regarding the need for a concrete action plan from the government to correct the problem.
Elver was in the Philippines to assess the realization of the right to food. During her 7-day visit, she met with government officials and several CSO representatives from FIAN Philippines, Focus on the Global South, LILAK, Alyansa Tigil Mina, and Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA).
The Special Rapporteur said that although steps have been made through the pending bills aimed at reducing hunger, there is still a need for the government to “devise and adopt a national strategy” to ensure the right to adequate food. (READ: Involuntary hunger)
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has a framework employed to address the looming problem of food insecurity in the region. However, it said that each member-state should be able to adapt and apply their own plans. (READ: How ASEAN is trying to end hunger and food insecurity)
In her preliminary report presented on February 28, Elver outlined the possible structure of the national strategic plan against hunger.
It is important that the plan establish “time-bound benchmarks and effective implementation plans” for the different areas in the Philippines to suit the situation of each region.
She also added that measures regarding the budget and fiscal measures should be long- term to ensure sustainability. The government should consider doing a “comprehensive budget analysis” to check the possible ways they can help end hunger through budget reforms.
“The government should diversify budget appropriations and policies,” Elver said. “Diversification is important when it comes to food security.”
Meanwhile, authorities and agencies responsible for implementation should be clearly designated. It is also important that appropriate monitoring mechanisms are employed to ensure they do their duties.
“Implementation is also important aside from actually passing the necessary laws,” Elver explained. “Accountability is very vital.”
When it comes to laying out a national strategy against hunger and food inadequacy, strong “cross-sectorial coordination” should be implemented.
The report highlighted the need for the “full and active participation” of all stakeholders, even those most vulnerable to hunger, to ensure the win against hunger and malnutrition.
“The government, the private sector, and the public should work together to ensure food adequacy,” the Special Rapporteur stressed. “Right to food is access to adequate and nutritious food and we have to act on both now.”
Elver’s first-time visit to the Philippines is deemed a great move to highlight hunger issues.
“It is a milestone in the discussion of the right to adequate food issues in the country,” Aurea Miclat-Teves, president of FIAN Philippines and one of the convenors of the National Food Coalition, said.
On March 2016, Elver is expected to present a full report on the realization of the Philippines’ right to food to the UN Human Rights Council. – Rappler.com