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Drilon sees ‘hunger crisis’ in Philippines sans adequate financial aid to poor Pinoys

Senator Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Monday warned that a hunger crisis is looming amid the COVID-19 pandemic after a Social Weather Stations survey showed that 7.6 million households experienced involuntary hunger at least once during 2020's third quarter.

"The government must address this immediately before it spirals into a full-blown crisis. We expect the figure to rise in the absence of adequate financial aid to the poor," Drilon said in a statement.

He added that the survey results validate the need for the inclusion of social amelioration program or "ayuda" to the proposed national budget for 2021.

The P9 billion confidential and intelligence fund of the government, P16.4 billion anti-insurgency fund and the P468 billion alleged lump-sum appropriation in the proposed national budget can be tapped to fund the cash aid for low-income households next year, according to Drilon.

Senator Risa Hontiveros saw the record-high number of Filipino families that experienced involuntary hunger as "a symptom of the deepening economic crisis" that must be taken seriously.

"Kasabay nito ang patuloy na pagsara at pagkalugi ng maraming negosyo at employer. Dumarami rin ang bilang ng Pilipino na kung hindi walang trabaho ay underemployed, underpaid, at kulang ang oras ng trabaho kaya kakarampot ang kita," she said in a separate statement.

Hontiveros said the Department of Social Welfare and Development's 2021 budget for feeding program must be larger and that agricultural sector and the home-based BPO industry should be strengthened to create more job opportunities.

She likewise renewed her call for the creation of a "balik-trabaho" czar.

Senator Joel Villanueva, chair of the Senate committee on labor, said the government agencies must expedite the implementation of various programs meant to cushion the impact of the pandemic.

"This is why we have been calling out our government agencies to move swiftly with the funds that Congress allocated to respond to the effects of the pandemic. We need our government to act with dispatch, and not in a business-as-usual scenario," he said in a message.

The Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2, recently signed by President Rodrigo Duterte, comes with P165 billion worth of appropriations for various programs which are seen to facilitate economic recovery.

Senator Christopher "Bong" Go, who chairs the Senate committee on health, said that while reopening the economy is important for recovery, observing health protocols must not be compromised.

"Habang wala pang bakuna sa COVID-19, patuloy po tayong mag-ingat. Ang pera po ay kikitain natin muli kung magsikap lang tayo. Pero ang buhay ay hindi po nabibili ng pera," he said.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez on Monday said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) should consider allowing 100% operating capacity on businesses currently only at half.

Metro Manila, along with other areas in the country, are still under a general community quarantine until September 30. Whether or not these areas will have an eased restriction will depend on Malacañang's announcement which may happen on Monday night. — BM, GMA News