Zero hunger bill could help win war on drugs’

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OLONGAPO CITY -- A pro-administration member of the House of Representatives on Monday, Oct. 16, said that ending hunger and poverty would turn people away from narcotics and help win the war on drugs being waged by President Rodrigo Duterte.

“The No. 1 thing we need to address is hunger because if you address hunger, poverty will follow,” Davao Rep. Karlo Nograles said in a briefing on the sidelines of the celebration of World Food Day in Olongapo City. 


Food as a human right

Nograles, chair of the House committee on appropriations, has authored the zero hunger bill, or the right to adequate food framework bill, which defines food as a human right and seeks to end hunger in the Philippines 10 years after its passage.

“If you are food-poor, you will grip the knife by the blade,” he said, using a Filipino description of what a desperate man would do. “That is what we don’t want to happen to our fellow Filipinos. The more people that we help, that we pull out of poverty, the more we will help keep them away from illegal activities, including drugs.”

The zero hunger bill, or House Bill No. 61 was approved by the House committee on human rights chaired by Zambales 2nd District Rep. Cheryl Deloso-Montalla.

Nograles was supported by the National Food Coalition and FoodFirst Information and Action Network (Fian) Philippines, the local section of Fian International, a group advocating the right to adequate food in cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization.

Nograles said that despite the expansion of the country’s gross domestic product, hunger and poverty still persisted in the country. 


Address hunger

“We have to do something. We have to have a system change,” he said. “If we don’t start with that premise [food is a human right] that [hunger] will persist.”

The “most drastic thing” to do to address hunger is to declare the right to adequate food a human right, he said.

Passing the zero hunger bill into law “will force our government to address that need because it would then be declared a human right,” Nograles said.

“If Brazil can do it, why can’t we here in the Philippines?” he said.

The zero hunger bill states that food is not a matter of charity but a legal entitlement that should be backed by a comprehensive food program to be pursued with a “whole-of-government approach.”

It directs the government to set policy targets to end hunger in the country in 10 years. This effort will be led by a presidential commission.

More than 1,000 Aetas and some Igorots marched in Olongapo in support of the zero hunger bill as they celebrated World Food Day and marked the 20th anniversary this month of the passage of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act.

In a message at the rally hosted by Olongapo City Mayor Rolen Paulino, Commission on Human Rights Chair Chito Gascon said it was “alarming” that entire communities were unable to enjoy the basic human right to food. —Oliver Teves/


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