Nearly 20 percent of respondent Filipino families said they went hungry for at least a day in the past three months based on a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey.
The survey held between March 19 and 22 showed that of those who have experienced hunger during the period, 15.6 percent said they have experienced moderate hunger while 3.6 percent indicated having experienced severe hunger.
The self-rated hunger figure was higher than the 16.3 percent posted in the same survey last December.
The SWS said hunger rose significantly between the two quarters and was experienced by respondents in both poor and non-poor sectors.
The hunger incidence increased in all regions except Metro Manila, climbing sharply in Mindanao to 29.2 percent from 20 percent.
Former budget secretary and University of the Philippines School of Economics professor Benjamin Diokno said structural reforms were needed to “sustain strong and inclusive growth and in the process create a lot of decent jobs.”
“The SWS survey results means poverty remains high and is persistent. It means the problem is structural. More decent jobs have to be created every year, according to Diokno.
In Luzon, the figure rose by two points to 14.7 percent and grew to 15 percent from 13.3 percent in the Visayas.
Malacañang said it remains committed to addressing poverty and hunger through various initiatives, adding that it is not relying on surveys as benchmarks for its interventions.
Deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte described the SWS survey, since it is done quarter to quarter, “a little bit volatile.”
Severe hunger was also highest in Mindanao advancing three points to 6.7 percent.
The survey was conducted through face-to-face interviews of 1,200 adults in Metro Manila, the Balance of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao with sampling error margins of plus and negative three percent for national percentages and plus and negative six percent for area percentages.
The questions asked were about the family’s experience of hunger and was directed at the household head.
The survey question on hunger goes “In the last 3 months, did it happen even once that your family experienced hunger and not have anything to eat?”.
Those who experienced hunger were further asked: “Did it happen only once, a few times, often, or always?”
Some economists said that the survey results are usually conservative as a result of the Filipinos’ reluctance to swallow their pride on matters such as their families going hungry.
Moderate Hunger refers to those who experienced hunger “only once” or “a few times” in the last three months, while severe hunger refers to those who experienced it “often” or “always” in the last three months.
“We don’t tend to take the survey alone as the sole benchmark for prioritizing several areas for us to concentrate or to at least target these areas,” Valte said.
One of the continuing thrusts of the government is the expansion of the conditional cash transfer program of the government, she said.
The government said that all over the country there were 3.9 million family beneficiaries of the conditional cash transfer (CCT).
Other programs also include livelihood for the poor, Valte said. This initiative provides trainings to support for those who wish to start small businesses, small or medium enterprises, she added.
The government has also identified several areas to prioritize to generate more jobs particularly in the agri-business and tourism sectors, she added.
Election watchdogs under the Automated Election System (AES) Watch are collating additional information and documents to strengthen the case they filed earlier before United Nations Human Rights Committee over the lapses committed by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) during the recently concluded mid-term elections.
Father Joe Dizon of Solidarity Philippines and Kontra Daya lead convenor, in an interview, noted that the electoral body had not been transparent in its conduct of the second automated elections with the use of precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines.
Dizon said their lawyers are studying their next legal move so they can held responsible the Comelec and Smartmatic for the various glitches in the just concluded May 13 elections.
“We also wanted the House of Representatives to conduct inquiries for their (Comelec) deficiency,” Dizon said.
He stressed the Comelec did not observe transparency for using the PCOS machines as there was some questions with regard to alleged pattern in the result of the counting and the premature proclamation of the 12 senatorial candidates.
The priest also claimed that there are many rules and regulations in the Omnibus Election Law that were violated by the Comelec, thus they are inclined to file their supplemental complaint once the IT experts determine the glitches of PCOS and the CF cards.
The group also said it is also planning to file a case before the Supreme Court against the Comelec and Smartmatic, for them to be held accountable for the “dubious and questionable election results.”
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr., for his part, is recommending to discontinue the use of Smartmatic precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines in the 2016 elections.
Brillantes said he will advise the next Comelec chief not to use the Smartmatic PCOS machines in the 2016 elections due to the large number of criticisms with the system in the last two elections.
He said personally the PCOS machines should not be used in the next elections because the machines were utilized for only two elections.
He, however, said the current PCOS machines from Smartmatic can still be used in the presidential elections as long as they are maintained properly.
He said a proposal to increase to 100,000 the number of voting machines was junked due to lack of budget.
The Comelec chief said he still wants the poll body to use optical mark recognition (OMR), similar to the PCOS machines, in the next elections.
By Alvin Murcia
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