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Hunger and its children

The Office of the Presidential Spokesperson cited a hunger incidence survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations which found that the proportion of families experiencing involuntary hunger has dropped from 17.2 percent in December 2014 to 13.5 percent in March 2015. It was concluded that this 3.7-point drop translates to an estimated 800,000 families no longer experiencing involuntary hunger. The 13.5-percent total hunger in March 2015 is the sum of 11.1 percent (estimated at 2.5 million families) who experienced moderate hunger and 2.4 percent (estimated at 522,000 families) who experienced severe hunger. Curiously, the self-rated hunger in Metro Manila in the second quarter was way higher than those in the rest of Luzon (10.7 percent), Visayas (11.7 percent), and Mindanao (14.3 percent). Secretary Edwin Lacierda noted that the improving hunger rate is a result of the government’s various programs which includes the highly-budgeted Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.

All of these statistics are well and good, considering that they are being touted by the primary government mouthpiece. Note, however, the following statistics and information from other government agencies, notably the Department of Agriculture, to paint the whole picture: 1.) Just recently, the National Food Authority said it has invited Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand to bid for the contract to supply us an additional 250 metric tons of rice this year. This is on top of the earlier 500 metric tons of rice that the government approved this year. 2.) As of May 05 this year, total value of production losses of crops caused by El Nino was reportedly at P1.65 billion. 3.) El Nino has already affected 24,662 hectares of rice, with a total estimated value at P1.035 billion. Add to this the damage to the corn sector (P605 million) and those for high-value crops (P14.5 million). 4.) The fisheries sector will also add to the above conundrum. According to a fisheries situationer from January-March 2015 from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, the decrease in total value of fisheries production at 2.57 percent continued until the first quarter of 2015. Among the major species, milkfish, tilapia, roundscad, skipjack, and seaweed recorded production losses this quarter with 0.07 percent, 2.80 percent, 19.45 percent, 7.03 percent, and 0.20 percent negative growths, respectively.

Considering that majority of the Filipinos have a diet which consist mostly of grains and fish, I cannot reconcile the numbers of which are variously being cited by our government agencies. If production of our staple food is going down, how is it that the number of the hungry is also going down? What is the ordinary Juan dela Cruz eating nowadays to satisfy his hunger?

Perhaps the numbers would prove true the allegations of TUCP-Nagkaisa when it downplayed the results of the SWS survey. The labor group said that the poor, especially in urban areas, are being satiated by “Pagpag”, which are leftover food from restaurants that are scavenged from garbage dumps.

It is said that necessity is the mother of all inventions. It is frightening to fathom what further offspring the further deterioration of our food security will produce. This is something to ponder upon this coming 2016, if we, as a nation, would still allow this incompetent administration under the guise of a fraudulent tuwid na daan, to continue.

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