Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged the Congress to look into the reported rise of hunger incidence rate in the country during the height of COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that immediate food relief will be provided to millions of hungry Filipinos nationwide.
In filing Senate Resolution (SR) No. 534, De Lima underscored the need to review and re-evaluate the intermediate and long-term policy and program interventions of the national government surrounding hunger and food insecurity that has affected generations of Filipinos.
“In an effort to stem the transmission of the virus, the national government has been imposing a series of lockdowns and quarantine measures of varying severity in order to control and monitor the movement of people in critically affected areas,” she said.
“The massive losses of livelihood and employment of millions of Filipinos resulting from these lockdowns have effectively ground the economy to a halt. Consequently, more and more households are also experiencing poverty and hunger in recent months,” she added.
In a survey conducted from Sept. 17 to 20 by the Social Weather Stations (SWS), an estimated 7.6 million Filipino households went hungry due to lack of food at least once during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
De Lima recalled that results of the survey showed a hunger incidence of 30.7%, which is the highest rate since March 2012 when the country reached its previous record high of 23.8% hunger incidence.
She likewise noted that the latest figure is nearly ten percentage points higher than July 2020’s 20.9% and almost 22 points higher than December 2019’s 8.8%, or before the health crisis reached the Philippines.
“This increase indicates a clear correlation between the government’s fledgling pandemic response and the level of hunger experienced by Filipinos over time,” said De Lima, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development.
“Sa isang Pangulong batugan, nagbubulag-bulagan at nagbibingi-bingihan sa hinaing ng mamamayan, talagang higit na dusa, gutom at kahirapan ang kahihinatnan, lalo na ng mga maralita nating kababayan,” stated De Lima.
In a tone-deaf response to the record-high hunger incidence rate, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque reiterated that putting Filipinos to work is the only assurance that they would not go hungry as cash-aid under the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) was only temporary.
De Lima, a social justice and human rights champion, maintained that the government should simultaneously address the immediate needs of hunger and food security along with the need for the restoration of jobs and livelihoods as well as the revival of the country’s economy.
“Opening up the economy will help but Filipinos are hungry now. [T]he Philippines has already been dealing with issues of chronic poverty and food insecurity among a significant portion of its population even before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived,” she said.
“These conditions were only further exacerbated as the virus spread among our poorest and most vulnerable sectors and were compounded by the government’s own misguided and misinformed policy decisions,” she added.
In filing the resolution, De Lima also urged the government to speed up and make more effective its disbursement and distribution mechanisms to make financial and food aid immediately accessible to the millions of hungry and impoverished Filipinos who are desperately trying to survive amid the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has gravely affected the overall health and well-being of Filipinos nationwide with the total case count breaching 300,000 and the number of fatalities exceeding 5,000 individuals as of 30 September 2020. (30)