Press Release
February 11, 2021

Hunger should prod gov't to reload a food-focused Bayanihan III "high in nutrients"

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said the "supply squeeze and price hikes" of food should prompt the immediate passage of the Bayanihan III Law.

"If hunger is a great motivator, then it should push the government to package a third round of aid centered on helping families who are having a hard time putting food on the table, " Recto said.

He batted for "food-focused" Bayanihan III with a "high nutritional content."

"Sa pagkain, i-address lahat, especially how to help the food-producing poor meet the needs of the food-consuming poor. Mga magsasakang walang pambili ng production inputs, at sa kabilang dulo naman ay mga mamamayang walang pambili ng pagkain," he said.

He said authors of the various Bayanihan III bills pending in the House and in the Senate, of which he is one, should craft a version that will create "a menu of food programs."

"The first, of course, is a new round of cash ayuda to poor families, and this time in a faster, better, and more targeted manner. After two rounds, hindi na pwedeng idahilan na kulang pa sa praktis ang gobyerno," he said.

"Importante ito. Yung direktang tulong. Kung kumakatok na ang gutom, mas priority ang market-to-stomach interventions kaysa farm-to-market roads na next year pa matatapos," he said.

Recto said among programs worth considering are food-for-work employment programs in labor-intensive government projects from public works, repair of farm infrastructure, preparation and distribution of school modules, and health.

There is also a proposal to launch various "work-for-food" projects in which local government will encourage families to tend community gardens. "Instead of straight dole outs, may kondisyon ang tulong. In the case of food gardens, literal ang ibig sabihin ng seed capital," he said.

Recto said boosting food production can be done without routing money through the Department of Agriculture, whose slow disbursement system has not been tuned for crisis spending.

For example, DSWD, LGUs and civic groups can work together in establishing community kitchens for children. "May pondo na diyan, dadagdagan na lang. Our children should not emerge from the pandemic stunted in both physical and intellectual growth."

Recto said inserting the "food quotient" across the proposed programs to be funded by the Bayanihan III would mean that those in the food business will be prioritized in planned aid for small firms.

"All indicators point to reloading the Bayanihan now. Tourist receipts, from a sector which accounts for 1/10th of the economy, plummeted to P82.2 billion last year from P482.1 billion in 2019."

Recto said while funds for Bayanihan II and the 2021 national budget are still being spent, there is no harm—in fact, it is prudent—to ready the replacement because there is certainty that they will be consumed.

"Kung may bagong strains ang COVID, kailangan ng bagong variants ang aid package. If the enemy is mutating, so must our response be. Nasusunog ang kapitbahay mo, ngayon pa lang mag-imbak ka na ng tubig. And you don't haggle with the price of water if your neighbor's house is on fire," Recto said.

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