School feeding program bill gains traction in House

MANILA — The House committee on basic education and culture will be drawing up a substitute bill to 13 proposals seeking to institutionalize the National School Feeding Program for public kindergarten and elementary pupils and appropriating funds for it.

According to a statement on Friday, members of the committee chaired by Sorsogon Rep. Evelina Escudero have agreed to finalize the draft substitute bill and approve it in its next hearing.

A 2012 United Nations report revealed that an estimated six million Filipino children suffer from malnutrition, four million of whom are below the age of six.

Kabayan Partylist Rep. Harry Roque, who authored House Bill No. 3276 proposing to make the feeding program regular in public high schools, expressed the urgency to expedite the approval of the proposal and its submission for plenary deliberations.

He sounded alarm as around six million Filipinos suffer from acute malnutrition, this despite the availability of funding for a national feeding program.

“The figure of six million children afflicted with acute malnutrition mentioned by Rep. Suansing and the knowledge of the average of 57 percent absorptive capacity of government agencies, as far as expenditure of the national budget is concerned, is a scandal,” Roque said.

“That is why I enjoin this committee to immediately endorse this bill for plenary discussion because this simple act of having resources and allowing our children to be hungry should no longer continue,” he added.

Representatives of concerned agencies and offices such as the DepEd, National Dairy Authority (NDA), National Nutrition Council (NNC), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), and Department of Budget and Management’s Government Procurement Policy Board (GPPB) expressed support for the bill and assured their offices’ cooperation in the attainment of its vision.

Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo A. Teves, Jr. stressed the importance of putting safeguards in the substitute bill to curb the possibility of corruption in the implementation of the program.

He cited similar unethical practices he had witnessed firsthand in the implementation of previous nutrition/feeding programs of the government.