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    Speech at the Philippine Association of Nutrition Inc and Philippine Society of Nutritionist-Dietitians, Inc. Joint Convention

    6 July 2016

    Century Hotel, Manila

    I just learned this morning that in 2011, my husband was also your guest. So it is really a great honor to be invited for this year’s convention.

    Those of you are who are in this room who are parents, may I ask you to think about your precious children?

    There is nothing within the boundaries of honest behaviour that you wouldn’t do to feed them, cloth them, shelter them, educate them and protect them.

    I am here to sure that you just don’t look well taken care off, they are also adored.

    But let us imagine if by some stroke of misfortune, your child was born to someone very very poor. That they did not win in the ovarian lottery, what then would happen?

    This advocacy of ensuring that each child on the planet has at the very least good nutrition, care and medical attention in the first 1000 days of life to which should be place by any government high up on its list of priorities.

    We don’t just save a lot of money in potentital public health expenditures by giving our people a healthy beginning with also productivity and break the inter-generational cycle of poverty.

    Studies show that these can raise gross domestic product by as much as 12%. But more importantly, it also saves people’s lives, provides dignity and reduces inequality.

    Let us think about it for a minute. What if the child in dire need of hunger and sustenance was the world’s next Steve Jobs? Or Lea Salonga? Or Barrack Obama? Or anyone of us? What would we have lost a specie?

    When I was doing alternative lawyering, I worked with mothers a lot. I knew that their lives revolve around their children and their laundry and their kitchen.

    Our people are already doing all they can because Filipinos are innately good and put their families at the center of their lives.

    The government, non-government organizations, the community as a whole, need right direction and know how to make sure every step we make goes towards providing optimum nutrition during this very critical period in a child’s life.

    Malnutrition can never be truly resolved by a feeding program alone. The answer comes in four interconnected parts. Food security and support for agriculture, a national feeding program, sustainable livelihood, and an innovation in our government procurement program.

    Ensuring food security, boosting agriculture and fighting against hunger can be complimentary efforts, government should take the lead in partnership of the private and civil society sectors to provide small farmers and fisher folk.

    Capacity, resources and support to improve their livelihood of producing sufficient and nutritious foods for their families and for the public.

    The provision of support services such as training, technology infrastructure, and farm inputs to small farmers and fisher folks is key in addressing the food security issues of every Filipino family.

    This is a necessary response to the malnutrition and hunger problems of marginalized Filipinos.

    We also need to set up systems so that our farmers and fisher folk are able to sell their products well.

    Kinukwento ko po kanina, before I entered. Exactly the same time last year, I was in Brazil to observe their zero hunger program. Kinukwento ko po na in Brazil, they have a universal school feeding program and every private and public school must require to have their own nutritionist.

    Lahat pong private and public school may sariling kitchen, may sariling nutritionists and before the end of the month, nag-mimeeting iyong lahat na school nutritionist to come up with the menu for the next month.

    Iyong menu sa schools for the next month are uniformed. Uniformed sa lahat ng schools and bawal iyong mga bata na magdala ng baon sa school.

    Sayang dapat pala nag slides ako, hindi ko pala na-anticipate, pero nakapag-observe kami ng feeding sa schools nila. Napakaganda, iyong mga kitchen nila talagang mayroong cook, mayroong nutritionist at saka dietrician, sine-serve iyong pagkain I think 3 times a day. 1 morning snacks, 1 lunch and 1 afternoon snacks. Tapos doon sa mga very poor communities, mayroon silang, ang tawag nila community restaurant.

    Iyong community restaurant, run by nutritionists also and dietricians pero heavily subsidized by the government. Mayroon siyang bills available for 1 peso. Iyong equivalent nila na 1 peso natin, iyong bills nila available, nakipila rin kami doon. Tulong-tulong talaga.

    The restaurant we went to said that they average about 200 people per lunch. Iyong pinuntahan namin hindi pa siya open for dinner pero open siya for lunch.

    Pero can you just imagine na kung may available na meals for 1 peso, wala ng magugutom. Kasi siguro madali namang mahanap iyong 1 peso. And it has been after a year, we observe the zero hunger program of Brazil.

    Parati ko ng pinapanaginipan na mangyayari din iyon dito sa atin. And in fact, we started a pilot program in my district in Camarines Sur, in the third district of Camarines Sur patterned after that.

    Pero iyong sa kanila, there is a government entered in a memorandum of agreement among themselves kasi iyong binibiling pagkain for the school feeding program, may coatilla iyon na a minimum of 30% should be bought from very very small farmers.

    Very small farmers iyon din ang tinutulungan ng gobyerno with a belief that hindi naman talaga masosolve iyong hunger kapag hindi mo i-sosolve ang poverty.

    And the program has been very successful because after 10 years, nawala ang Brazil sa hunger map. Kaya sabi ko sana magawa din natin iyon. It is really doable in the Philippines.

    As I have said, we also need to set up systems that our farmers and fisher folk are able to sell their products well. Doon po, iyon ding grow ng mga small farmers, guaranteed na iyong sale. Gobyerno na ang bumibili ng kanilang produce.

    As I was telling you, I have been studying the Brazil model for the past 2 years already. It is an innovative program that require the government to purchase the small scale producers addressing hunger and supporting farmers at the same time.

    So when I was in Congress, I filed a bill called a National Food Security Bill of 2015. Some of the most salient portions of this bill have to do them streamlining food procurement and food distribution distribution systems nationwide.

    It also creates a feeding program for children 1-13 years old. Pinag-uusapan din po namin kanina na kapag universal school feeding program lang, hindi talaga sufficient dahil kapag iyong intervention natin masyado nang late sa edad ng bata, marami nang hindi masasalba. Nakita ko ang aming city nutritionist, si Racquel nandiyan. She was one of the architects ng pagpababa ng malnutrition rate sa Naga.

    I am not very sure of the figures. Anong figure nga tayo nagsimula Racquel, was it 24%?

    Noong pag-umpisa yata ni Jess ay bata pa ito. Noong nag-umpisa si Jess as Mayor, I think we started at 24%?

    Ay si Baby pala ito. Naku, nandiyn pala ang aming… Baby del Castillo is the Sitting Nutrition Action Officer. Ito pala si Baby, sorry Baby hindi kita nakilala earlier.

    Anong percentage iyong ating malnutrition? 33? We started at 33% and now we’re down to 2.9%.

    Ito si Mrs. Baby del Castillo at saka si Racquel, ito iyong mga masigasig na city nutrition officers pero as I have said, sa Naga nag-uumpisa tayo sa mga buntis. Pregnant mothers inuumpisahan na natin na asikasuhin. Hindi talaga pwedeng mag-uumpisa tayo sa school age lang.

    Anyway, it is true that the first freedom that has to be won is freedom from hunger. Because when you are always concerned where the next meal comes from, everything else becomes irrelevant.

    That is why there is also a need for a national feeding program. As I have said, not only in public schools and daycare centers, but should also include pregnant mothers and very very small children who are also out of school to address malnutrition ang hunger needs of all Filipino children.

    The impact of this program can further assist our farmers and fisher folk if the government can facilitate the local procurement of food commodities from them. Last is sustainable livelihood, if government is mandated to buy at least 30% of the supply for the feeding programs from the small scale food producers, we will create a constant demand for their products and provide good nutritious food to our children at the same time.

    This means that small scale producers shall be exempted from the traditional procurement process. Ito kasi iyong pinagdaanan naming kahirapan.

    We will undergo negotiated procurement participation under the guidelines of the government procurement policy port. Making it easier for small scale food producers to sell their produce to the government.

    Support services will also be given to small scale food producers by department of agriculture and department of agrarian reform like training on productions, harvesting, procurement process of the government.

    They might talk about things like subsidized farm equipments, facilities for storage and harvesting, capacity building for small scaled farmers, access to crop insurance and access to credit-no-interest race.

    Ang gusto ko lang ditong sabihin, iyong very very small scaled farmers kasi natin are among the most poor and the community. Ito iyong mga farmers who do not have lands of their own retail. Sila din iyong walang access to credit kasi wala silang collateral.

    Sila din iyong unorganized kaya hindi natutulungan ng mga government agencies. So what we did in our district is that we organized them, help them be accredited and entered into a memorandum of agreement with DA and DAR to provide them with support services para naman capacitated sila.

    But again, 1 of the big problems that we faced was the procurement processes of government. Kailangan talagang maayos ito kasi kahit nagpoproduce na sila ng maayos, they can never compete with big producers. So this one is one of those things na we really need to address.

    We might also need a national food security council as unattached and independent agency under the Office of the President to oversee procurement distribution and targeting of beneficiaries.

    These are just some of the measures that we can think to ensure that our nations children are all given a fair chance in this race we call life.

    Let’s talk if you have new innovations or great solutions. Dapat parati lang bukas para sa mga kaisipan na malay natin mas maganda iyong naisipan nating programa kaysa sa Brazil.

    We don’t have the monopoly of knowledge and expertise. We want to create a community of Filipinos who work together, who own our nations future together, and who want to put a stake in our children’s tomorrows.

    I look forward to hearing from you because as I have said, last Monday, collaboration is our most important resourced and when we work together, the impossible becomes possible.

    So thank you very much and congratulations…

    Posted in Speeches on Jul 07, 2016