Press Release
January 3, 2006

Palace told: Link food subsidy to literacy, job programs
Hand up, not handout; work over welfare - Recto

Sen. Ralph Recto today urged Malacañang to attach its planned P35-billion food subsidy plan to literacy and food-for-work programs.

Recto also called on the Palace to earmark part of the fund, which will be drawn from 2005 government savings, to irrigation, postharvest, rural road and other projects which provide permanent solutions to the problem of food scarcity.

A hand up is better than a handout. People will prefer work over welfare, Recto said in asking government to use food subsidy as an incentive for poor children to go to school and for out-of-work people to work in public infrastructure projects.

Recto raised this point to push for his proposal that an elementary school-age kid from a destitute family get one kilo of rice for each day of school attended.

This school attendance- for-rice swap will solve two problems: the high incidence of dropout among students from poor families and the hunger of these families, he said.

The come-on for this program is you learn while your family eats. You get a diploma and your family gets food. Hunger for knowledge and for food are both met, he said.

If one child can bring rice to four family members waiting at home, and we will be helping two million people fight hunger.

Recto said dangling rice as an incentive for going to school will also prevent schoolchildren from turning into child laborers, as most dropouts end up working fulltime to feed their families.

Recto said this food-for-thought program he is proposing can be implemented in conjunction with a food-for-work that would target jobless breadwinners.

He said recipients of free or subsidized rice can be made to work in public works projects under a scheme in which they will be paid in part or in whole with food.

This program, he said, would address the need to address the infrastructure backlog and create temporary jobs at the same time.

It is also a dignified way of getting government assistance for it would spare the recipient the thought that he is a mendicant getting food aid, he said.

Recto said not all of the P35 billion should be spent on price support that would deflate food prices.

It is better that a great part of the fund should go to institutional programs that would make food abundant and affordable. What we should aim for in the long run is food independence not the poors dependence on artificially lowered prices of food.

He cited the case of building more postharvest facilities such as solar dryers and grains silo in order to reduce after-harvest losses which account for, in the case of palay, 18 percent of total yield.

We dont have to import rice if we can just reduce postharvest wastage. The amount of rice lost to handling can actually feed the whole of Metro Manila for a year. Instead of spending more than P10 billion a year to buy rice from abroad, why not use a portion of this amount to slowly build up the number of postharvest facilities and irrigation? he said.

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