Press Release
November 21, 2016


Sen. Grace Poe today said the much-awaited Senate approval of her pet measure seeking to institutionalize a free feeding program in all public schools is a "good Christmas gift" after being assured of its passage before the holiday break next month.

Poe, author of Senate Bill (SB) No. 160 or the proposed Libreng Pananghalian sa Pampublikong Paaralan Act, expressed appreciation and optimism following Sen. Benigno "Bam" Aquino III's pronouncement that the Senate committee on education, arts and culture will soon endorse the bill for plenary debates and will likely be approved in December.

"Although this has not yet been passed into law, there is basis for continuing enabling and capacitating the nutrition services of the Department of Education," Poe said during last week's interpellation of the DepEd's proposed P543 billion budget for next year.

Sen. Bam Aquino said the Senate education committee is currently consolidating Poe's bill and other similar legislation filed by other senators.

"We are very supportive of this bill. The four bills have more or less the same subject matter, just a few provisions are different, but we are currently consolidating all of these ideas to come up with a better version. We hope when the time comes, we can support this bill together on the floor," Aquino said in defending the DepEd outlay as sub-committee chairperson of the Senate finance committee.

According to Aquino, 75.64 percent of student-beneficiaries of the DepEd's school-based feeding program have their weight normalized.

Poe asked for studies on the benefits of feeding program to "wasted" and "severely wasted" children--or those with chronic malnutrition--to determine the success of the program that would justify the immediate passage of the nutrition measure.

"I think it will help the good sponsor to be able to defend our bill to get the consensus and approval of our colleagues," Poe said.

Poe is pushing for the institutionalization of the feeding program for schoolchildren as the Philippines still reels from the effects of childhood undernutrition, as independent global children's organization Save the Children estimated that the "appalling state" of malnutrition cost the Philippines P328 billion or almost 3 percent of its gross domestic product and affected workforce productivity and education.

The overall economic loss consists of P166.5 billion worth of lost income as a result of lower level education achieved by the working population who suffered from childhood stunting, P160 billion in lost productivity due to premature deaths among children who would have been members of current working-age population, and P1.23 billion in additional education costs to cover grade repetitions linked to undernutrition.

A survey by the local pollster Social Weather Stations indicated that 3.1 million Filipino families suffered from hunger during the first quarter of 2016, an increase of half a million hungry families recorded in the last quarter of 2015.

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