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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

DSWD blames bad population management for intensifying hunger

From ABS-CBN News:

President Arroyo's social welfare secretary on Tuesday attributed to bad population management the growing hunger among Filipinos as she aired her support for reproductive health proposals which have been tagged by the Church as “anti-life”.

"Everything is related to population management," Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral told radio dzMM, adding that the government's social welfare efforts cannot sustain a continuously growing Filipino population.

"The government's social services will not reach them if their numbers continue to grow bigger," she added.

She said she "personally" supports the reproductive health bills pending before Congress. She said people, especially married couples, should not be "coerced" to reject the bills.

She added that every Filipino couple has the right to be educated on how to limit their family size and be informed of the advantages and disadvantages of contraceptives, including birth control pills and condoms.

"These things (pills and condoms) should be available to them," Cabral added.

The secretary made the statement even as President Arroyo maintained her "pro-life" stance aligned with the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines' advocacy.

Church asked to stop influence

The Church is currently on a word war against Iloilo 1st district Rep. Janette Garin, author of House Bill 812 or the proposed Reproductive Health Care Act.

Garin has been urging the Church to stop using its influence and stop threatening legislators against supporting pro-contraceptive measures in Congress.

Legislators have intensified their campaign to pass reproductive health bills in reaction to the country's growing problem in food and fuel prices.

The latest hunger survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) said at least 2.9 million families went hungry at least once in the last three months.

The 2nd Quarter survey, conducted June 27-30, showed that 16.3 percent of families experienced involuntary hunger in the past quarter, up from the 15.7 percent recorded in March.

The SWS said at least 760,000 families experienced severe hunger in the past three months, which is one point above the 10-year average severe hunger rate of 3.3 percent.

Although total hunger rose by a small 0.6 point between March and June, SWS said the survey revealed that it “worsened significantly because the share of severe hunger increased.”

Moderate hunger, referring to those who experienced it only once or a few times in the last three months, declined slightly from 12.5 percent in March to 12.1 percent, or about 2.2 million families, in June. SWS said the latest figure is four points above the nine-year average moderate hunger rate of 8.8 percent.

It said the few who did not state their frequency of hunger were also placed in this category.

More hungry Filipinos this month

Cabral said more Filipinos are expected to grow hungry with higher prices of basic commodities and services in July.

“If we’re working and our salaries a few months ago are just enough, we might have a harder time [this month] because of the fare increase and the higher prices of food,” she said.

The social welfare chief said the effect of the higher prices of food and transport fees would have a direct effect on Metro Manila residents.

She said residents in Metro Manila are not used to eating rootcrops and other alternative staple to rice, which makes them more vulnerable to hunger.

Cabral, however, assured that the government is doing all it can to cushion the effects of the global food and oil crisis.

The SWS survey showed that the hunger rate in Metro Manila the worse compared with other regions.

Hunger incidence in Metro Manila has risen by six points, from 15.7 percent in March to 22 percent in June, or 11 points above the 10-year average of 11.2 percent.

Moderate hunger in Metro Manila rose by almost six points, from 10.3 percent to 16 percent, or eight points above the 10-year average of 8.1 percent.

Likewise, severe hunger went up by almost one point, from 5.3 percent to 6 percent, or three points above the 10-year average of 3 percent.

The hunger incidence in the Visayas was no different where the total hunger rose by seven points, from 12.3 percent to 19.7 percent, or eight points above the nine-year average of 11.8 percent.

Moderate hunger rose by five points, from 11 percent to 16.3 percent, or eight points above the 10-year average of 8.6 percent, while severe hunger rose by two points from 1.3 percent to 3.3 percent. The severe hunger figure is similar to the 10-year average of 3.2 percent.

Total hunger in Mindanao, meanwhile, barely changed from 18 percent last March to 17.7 percent in June. It is now four points above the nine-year average of 14.2 percent, the survey said.

Despite this, however, hunger in Mindanao has intensified, with severe hunger rising from 2.7 percent to 4.3 percent. Moderate hunger declined from 15.3 percent to 13.3 percent.