Food price increases are aggravating the hunger and inequalities in Payatas where many informal settlers have already turned to trash in search of food.
Manang Miling Bangayan, a trash picker and sorter in one of Quezon City’s barangays with the most number of poor residents, has long been collecting leftover food thrown away by restaurants and fast food chains. After sorting them out, she recooks them, mostly by frying. The recycled food scraps becomes her family’s lunch and dinner or are sold to her neighbors. She calls this food from the trash heap “pagpag” – literally leftovers shaken free of dirt. Many like her from Payatas have been left with no alternative to fill their stomachs but to resort to this kind of food.
The living condition of Manang Miling and other informal settlers like her reflects the general situation of the country’s other poor people – farmers, fisherfolks and indigenous peoples – who may not have yet resorted to eating recycled leftovers from the trash heap but nevertheless are just as hungry.
On the occasion of the commemoration of this year’s World Food Day on Oct. 24 in Payatas, Quezon City, representatives of these basic sectors provided testimonials to present the realities of the country’s food problem.
The day’s program was organized by the National Food Coalition (NFC), a broad coalition of 80 people’s organizations and federations composed of more than 10,570 individual members advocating for the right to adequate food.
The gaping inequality gap between the richest Filipinos and the majority wallowing in abject poverty is widening by the day. Hunger rates have risen over the last year due to the sharp increases in the prices of rice and other food items. Malnutrition rates are expected to rise accordingly.
Attorney Jose Manuel Diokno, president of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), said that “the Filipino people are not only suffering from hunger and malnutrition, they are also hungry for justice. The indigenous people, farmers, workers, fisherfolks and the urban poor are experiencing various forms of violations of their human rights.” Diokno who is the founding dean of the De La Salle College of Law is running for the Senate in the May 2019 mid-term election to be a voice of the Filipino masses.
Ka Lucy, an Ayta leader from Botolan, Zambales, said indigenous Filipinos like her suffer from impoverishment due to the encroachment by transnational and multinational corporations into their ancestral lands. Farmers who till the land and the fishermen who depend on their traditional fishing grounds also are victims of landgrabbing TNCs in their race to extract the country’s mineral resources. All these TNC activities are impacting on the indigenous communities, resulting in the depletion of natural resources, eroded soil, devastated forests, polluted waters, destruction of the ecosystem and biodiversity and, eventually, their lives and livelihood.
Mine tailings, Ka Lucy said, go downstream and destroy lands. These mine wastes further go down the rivers and the seas, killing the marine life – fishes, corals and seashells.
Amidst this pattern of control, dispossession and human rights violations triggered by landgrabbing, the lack of government action has led to its failure to respect, protect and fulfill the rights of Filipinos, particularly the right to adequate food.
Meanwhile, food systems in the Philippines are increasingly captured by transnational and multinational corporations, which now dictate what and how we eat.
Food as the fuel of life is being transformed into a commodity for corporate profit. This in turn is affecting our basic sectors by further taking away their resources, damaging the environment and changing for the worse our eating habits.
Do our government officials have to eat “pagpag” in order for them to experience how it is to be hungry?
Maybe not. Instead, the National Food Coalition and other social movements and human rights advocates challenge the government, especially the President and the Senators, to pass the Zero Hunger Bill immediately as a comprehensive and substantive response to the growing hunger and marginalization of our people.
According to Aurea M. Teves, convener of the National Food Coalition, hunger can be eliminated in our lifetime. We should act now to make food a sustained priority and a legal right “ang pagkain ay sapat dapat.”
Aurea Miclat -Teves
Convener, National Food Coalition
President, FIAN Philippines
President, Peoples Development Institute
91 Madasalin Street, Sikatuna Village 1101 Quezon City
Tel (632) 351-7553
Fax (632) 436-3593
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