Reopening the economy is the only guarantee to address hunger, Malacañang said Monday after a recent survey found 7.6-million Filipino families went hungry in the past three months.
The government, however, will continue its programs to provide assistance to those hit by the COVID-19 pandemic as some P13 billion is allotted under Bayanihan 2 Act for the residents of the areas that will be placed under localized lockdowns, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.
The Labor department will continue its cash-for-work program and the Finance department will still provide subsidy to small and medium businesses.
"The guarantee to decrease the number of people experiencing hunger is to open the economy so more can return to their livelihoods. Aid is temporary, it's better to give permanent livelihoods to our people,” Roque said.
"We call on everyone. We know COVID-19 is scary, but in the seven months that it has been here, we know that when we wear face masks, wash our hands and avoid others, we can go to work.”
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Monday raised alarm over the increasing number of Filipino families that experienced hunger amid the pandemic, warning of a looming hunger crisis if proper measures are not put in place.
“I am alarmed by the worsening condition of the poor Filipino families affected by the pandemic. They are hungry, and most of them are women and children,” Drilon said.
“The government must address this immediately before it spirals into a full-blown crisis.”
In the latest survey by Social Weather Stations, the hunger incidence among Filipinos worsened amid the pandemic. The families that experienced involuntary hunger jumped to 7.6 million, a new record-high of 30.7 percent in the September survey from about 5.2 million families, or 20.9 percent, in the July survey, which represents a 9.8-percent increase.
Senator Risa Hontiveros said the government must act swiftly against the growing epidemic of hunger and poverty.
She said the record-high number of families experiencing hunger was a symptom of the deepening economic crisis that must be taken seriously. The fight against hunger and economic depression deserved as much attention from government as the COVID-19 crisis.
Senator Francs Pangilinan said the new guidelines for the government to buy directly from farmers and fishermen will raise the income of food producers and address hunger in the country.
"It is unacceptable that millions are going hungry when we have our local farmers who produce nutritious and affordable harvests," said Pangilinan who has consistently urged the government to buy from farmers and fishermen.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto is again pressing Social Welfare to distribute the balance of P10 billion from what Congress has authorized in the second Bayanihan Law as cash aid to pandemic-affected families.
“If under the worst-case scenario it can be given late November, then it can qualify as a Christmas ayuda,” Recto said.
“And if President Duterte would back a proposal for a third round of SAP this Christmas, he will have the backing of both houses of Congress.”