Press Release
November 3, 2006


Senator Edgardo J. Angara today warned government against importing P5 billion worth of rice under the cover of providing for the needs of the school feeding program, saying this would grievously hurt Filipino rice farmers now being buffeted by depressed palay prices.

A five-billion-peso rice import translates into one million metric tons of rice. Imagine the impact of dumping one million metric tons of rice into the market already glutted by excessive regular rice importation, said Angara.

Angara said that the country, which became a net exporter of rice in the 70s, has been importing more than one million metric tons of rice over the past ten years and this has been at the root of a double-whammy. These are the drain of precious foreign exchange and the reckless dumpling of rice into the country.

Angara said there have been reports that some rice orders are overpriced and those involved in the purchases have been receiving commissions.

Angara said that there are serious doubts on whether the school feeding program should be implemented as the government had crafted itgiving out one-kilo of rice to school children.

Angara said that a sound school feeding program should be a total package which means providing school children with the necessary vitamins and minerals to improve their physical and mental faculties.

The school feeding program I have been sponsoring and supporting offer vitamin-fortified noodles, milk and eggs, said Angara.

Providing children with rice under a supposedly institutional school feeding program is a flawed policy, said Angara, since this would not provide the beneficiaries with the needed vitamins and minerals for mental and physical development.

Angara said that an institutional school feeding program should not be a feed-and-leave thing but a sustained undertaking that should last for at least a 120-day cycle.

Angara has been a staunch advocate of a government-initiated and private sector-supported school feeding program to ease the critical problem of child malnutrition.

Angara said that close to 10 million school children are suffering from various stages of malnutrition and this has severely affected their ability to learn.

This problem cuts across all regions though it is more marked in regions were rural poverty is a brutal thing, said Angara.

In a speech before the United Nations a few years back, Angara said that malnutrition is a silent killer which has been turning out millions of under-performing children.

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