Senator seeks creation of commission to address hunger

ALARMED by the harmful effects of undernutrition and its deleterious effects on future generations of Filipinos, Senator Aquilino Pimentel III filed a bill that would create a Commission on the Right to Adequate Food.

Pimentel's Senate Bill 111 seeks to consolidate all laws on food and set up a national system that will ensure food access for everyone.

The bill will serve as framework law that would harmonize all food programs and ensure that they are maintained over time, said Pimentel.

Pimentel cited United Nations reports saying "the effects of under-nutrition are irreversible" and the "lack of access to adequate and nutritious food is having a detrimental effect on future generations."

The senator added that data show nearly 14 percent of households suffered from involuntary hunger last year.

"The right of the people to adequate food must be protected and kept inviolable always," said Pimentel, who noted that although the Philippines is an agricultural nation, many Filipinos are still experiencing hunger.

The commission, which would be an attached agency of the Commission on Human Rights, will enforce the laws relating to food and set specific targets towards the goal of eradicating hunger.

"The sad fact remains that we cannot seem to feed our own people," said Pimentel, adding that this right is not a matter of charity but a legal entitlement.

Solving hunger and the country's food problem requires not just a stopgap measure of doling out food to the hungry, Pimentel said, but involves a multiple-front approach.

These include concrete steps that would enable the agricultural sector to achieve higher levels of productivity and sustainability, promote access to economic growth, and recognize food as an essential human right, said Pimentel.

Food inadequacy is further exacerbated by the fact that people do not get the right amount of nutrition for the human body to function properly and stay healthy, he said, citing recent studies show.

Pimentel citing one United Nations fact-finding report, stating "accessing adequate and nutritious food continues to be a challenge across most of the country both in terms of under and over nutrition, with women and children faring worst."

The protest of hungry farmers in Kidapawan City early this year, Pimentel said, "is a grim reflection of our continued inability to provide food security to our people."

For three days last March, thousands of farmers blockaded the Davao-Cotabato Highway in Kidapawan City to protest government's failure to help them mitigate the effects of a prolonged drought that hit their farms.

The demonstration ended violently with a number of protesters who had demanded supplies of rice killed or injured when police using guns and batons broke up the protest.

Pimentel's proposed bill provides a framework within which hunger would be addressed in an organized way, and through which hunger may be ended.

The proposed Commission will also be tasked to receive complaints and investigate all forms of violations of the law and provide legal measures on the protection of the right to adequate food.

The Commission will be empowered to establish a continuing program of research, education and information to enhance respect for the primacy of the right to adequate food and recommend to Congress ways to promote the same. (Sunnex)
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