By Genalyn Kabiling
At least P1 billion will be set aside for the partial implementation of the new law establishing a national feeding program this year, Malacañang announced Friday.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said the government would give priority to areas with high incidence of hunger among schoolchildren in public schools in carrying out the feeding program this year.
“Totoo po na sayang at hindi naisabatas ito bago magsimula ang eskuwelahan. Pero ngayong taon po ay mayroong isang bilyon po para sa partial implementation nitong programang ito [It’s really unfortunate that it was not passed into law before the start of the school year but this year, there will be P1 billion for the partial implementation of the program],” Roque said in a radio interview.
“Ito po ay itututok po natin sa pinakamahihirap na rehiyon muna sa ating bayan, para sa medyo mga nakakatikim ng matinding pagkagutom, eh sila po iyong mauna na magkaroon ng libreng pagkain [We will focus on the poorest regions in the country but those with the high incidence of hunger will be prioritized in the provision of free food],” he added.
Roque said the full implementation of the national feeding program would be carried out next year.
“Iyong isang bilyon po ay 1/3 ng kinakailangan na full implementation, inaasahan na para mapakain lahat iyong ating mga bata sa ating eskuwelahan, kinakailangan tatlong bilyon [The P1 billion is just 1/3 of the funds allocated for its full implementation. We will need P3 billion to feed all the children in public schools],” he added.
President Duterte recently signed Republic Act No. 11037 establishing a program giving free nutritious lunch to children in public daycare facilities, kindergarten and elementary schools.
The new law, also known as “Masustansyang Pagkain para sa Batang Pilipino Act,” aims to combat hunger and undernutrition among Filipino children.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will implement a supplemental feeding program for the daycare children while the Department of Education (DepEd) will enforce the school-based feeding program.
Roque, one of the principal authors of the bill when he served as Kabayan party list representative, said he was happy with the passage of the feeding program law to help improve nutrition of young school kids.
“It is really a sin that while in the past, the problem was how to spend the annual appropriations budget. There’re around 6 million Filipino children who still suffer from acute malnutrition,” Roque said in a Palace press briefing last Thursday.
Roque also appealed to the local government units as well as parents to cooperate with the implementation of the national feeding program. He said he hopes the task of feeding the children would not be left solely to school principals and teachers.
He noted that Compostela Valley was among the places with successful implementation of feeding program in schools due to the coordination between the school and local government officials.
“The DepEd has said that they have had best examples already on feeding programs and one feeding program that has proven to be hugely successful is in ComVal,” he said.
“Matindi po ang koordinasyon sa panig ng LGU at ng mga eskuwelahan dahil ang LGUs daw po ang nagpo-procure noong pinapakain para sa ating mga kabataan [The LGUs and schools have close coordination since the LGUs procure the food for the children],” he said.