Advocacy to end hunger
Juan Edgardo Angara .
Imagine there is no hunger in the Philippines.
That is Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara’s dream. To make the dream a reality, he hopes to enact a law that will guarantee “the right to adequate food.”
He filed Senate Bill 98 titled “An Act Establishing the Legal Framework for Ensuring the Availability, Adequacy, Accessibility, and Safety of Food for All Filipinos.”
The bill seeks to oblige the state “to respect, protect, and fulfill every Filipino’s right to adequate food.” And that it is the state’s “core obligation to take the necessary action to mitigate and alleviate hunger, even in times of natural or other disasters.”
Section 6 states: “Every person has a right to be free from hunger. Every person suffering from hunger or under nutrition, or at risk of suffering from hunger or under nutrition is entitled to a minimum amount of food according to one’s age, sex, health status, and occupation …”
Sen. Angara also seeks to abolish the notion that giving food to the hungry is but a charitable act. “Adequate food is not a matter of charity, but a legal entitlement. Hunger is inconsistent with human dignity and human rights, and must be eliminated.”
He is fighting for the government to “provide for a framework to address and eliminate hunger in an organized, coherent, accountable, transparent and progressive manner, with the active participation of the population and without any form of discrimination.”
Section 5 states: “Every infant, girl and boy has a right to adequate food and to optimal health, development and nutrition adequate for their age, growth and development. Every woman has a right to adequate food and adequate nutrition during pregnancy and lactation.”
In defining accessibility, it includes vulnerable individuals. It specifically mentions the elderly, those belonging to the informal sector, the physically disabled, the terminally ill and persons with persistent medical problems, including the mentally ill.
Accessible to all
Food must be especially accessible when people need it. I remember the struggles of the general public at the height of COVID-19 lockdowns when people had to live on ayuda and many did not receive theirs, literally going hungry. This bill seeks to fix that as it states that every person “has the right to live in conditions that will enable them to … be safe from the risk of losing access to food, as a consequence of sudden shocks, like an economic or climatic crisis, or one that is brought about by a national health emergency, or one that caused the internal displacement of people, or cyclical events, such as seasonal food insecurity.”
Best of all, the bill goes beyond the mere distribution of food for a day or a time period but also talks about empowerment and productivity. In Section 5, it says that every person “has the right to live in conditions that will enable them to … acquire via financial means a sufficient quantity and quality of food and to satisfy other basic needs …”
Commission on the Right to Adequate Food
If passed into law, there will be a Commission created under the Office of the President for food security, proposed to be called “Commission on the Right to Adequate Food.” The name does not sound appetizing but the intention is certainly palatable!
At the same time, various government agencies will be mandated to address the following areas of concern: 1) food availability, stability and adequacy; 2) food quality and safety; 3) the determination of standards on the minimum amount of food to be given to any person suffering from hunger or under nutrition; 4) physical and economic access to food; and, 5) well-functioning distribution, processing and market systems.
Through these efforts, the bill seeks to reduce the incidence of hunger in the country by 25 percent within 2.5 years and by another 25 percent five years after that, and so forth to achieve zero hunger in 10 years. This will be achieved by also improving agriculture, which the bill says should have an increased budget specifically for agri research, agri extension, irrigation, training, technology and rural development.
We share the good Senator’s dream of ending hunger in this country! It’s an ambitious bill but hopefully the means by which we will see a dream come true. INQ
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