MANILA, Philippines - An estimated 4.8 million families said they experienced hunger at least once in the past three months, the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed.
The survey conducted among 1,200 respondents from March 10 to 13 found 23.8 percent of the respondents experiencing hunger, higher than the 22.5 percent (4.5 million families) in the survey last December.
SWS said the latest hunger rate surpassed the highest record of 23.7 percent in December 2008.
Last week, the SWS also reported a 10-point increase in self-rated poverty from 45 percent (9.1 million families) to 55 percent (11.1 million families). It was the highest so far under the Aquino administration.
SWS said overall hunger also increased across geographical areas, except in the Visayas, where it fell by 14.7 points to 10.3 percent (about 399,500 families) from 25 percent (957,000 families).
It rose by seven points in Mindanao to 26.7 percent (1.3 million families); five points in the rest of Luzon to 28 percent (about 2.5 million families); and by 2.3 points in Metro Manila to 24.3 percent (estimated 691,000 families).
SWS said the increase in overall hunger was due to slight increases in “moderate” as well as “severe” hunger.
Hunger refers to involuntary suffering due to the lack of anything to eat, the SWS said.
Those who experienced hunger “only once” or “a few times,” including those who did not state the frequency of the hunger they felt, are categorized under moderate hunger.
Severe hunger, meanwhile, refers to those who experienced hunger “often” or “always.”
Moderate hunger rose from 17.7 percent to 18 percent or an estimated 3.7 million families from 3.6 million families last December.
Severe hunger, meanwhile, jumped 1.1-point to a near record-high of 5.8 percent (1.2 million families) from 4.7 percent or an estimated 955,000 families. The latest figure was below the six percent record-high in March 2001.
The survey also showed that hunger was at 32.4 percent among the self-rated poor or more than double the 13.5 percent among those who said they were not poor.
The figures were almost similar to last December’s 33.6 percent hunger rate among the self-rated poor and the 13.3 percent among the not poor.
SWS said 37.3 percent among the self-rated food poor claimed to have experienced hunger in the first quarter. This was triple the 13 percent among the not food-poor and food-borderline families.
Those who experienced severe hunger likewise increased to 9.2 percent from eight percent among the self-rated poor but fell to 1.7 percent from 2.1 percent for the not poor/borderline families.
Among the self-rated food poor, severe hunger rose from 9.1 percent to 10.5 percent.
Moderate hunger among self-rated poor families, however, dropped to 23.2 percent from 25.6 percent last December.
Moderate hunger fell by 14.3 points in the Visayas to 7.7 percent, by 0.7 point in Metro Manila to 16.3 percent, but up by five points to 22 percent in the rest of Luzon and by four points to 20 percent in Mindanao.
The SWS said the figures were higher than the 13-year averages for all areas, except in the Visayas.
Severe hunger also dipped slightly in the Visayas to 2.7 percent from three percent, while it rose three points in Metro Manila and eight percent in Mindanao. It remained at six percent in the rest of Luzon.
Increase due to oil price hikes - Soliman
Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said the increase in the number of Filipinos who went hungry could be due to oil price increases in the National Capital Region and the disasters that struck Mindanao.
“We will intensify the supplementary feeding program and cash for work, especially in the identified areas of the survey,” Soliman said in a text message to The STAR.
Soliman said the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program now has 2.9 million family-beneficiaries.
“We are also fast-tracking the rehabilitation of earthquake and typhoon survivors through provision of core shelter units as well as livelihood assistance to enable them to achieve normalcy in their lives,” Soliman said.
Unrest due to poverty
A party-list lawmaker, meanwhile, warned yesterday of possible unrest owing to the continuous rise of hunger in the country.
“Hunger and unrest is inevitable in a country where government policies reveal an indifference to poverty. President Aquino is courting unrest and disgust by deliberately ignoring and refusing to prioritize measures that will give Filipino families much needed relief from the onslaught of poverty,” Gabriela party-list Rep. Luz Ilagan said.
“That more and more Filipino families are going hungry can only be the result of the Aquino government’s refusal to grant higher wages amid incessant increases in food prices,” she said.
She said the National Statistics Office earlier confirmed that basic commodity price increases – including fish, dairy products, non-alcoholic beverages and selected fruits – contributed heavily to the three percent inflation rate last April.
She said removing the value added tax on petroleum products alone could have made a huge difference.
“By bringing down the prices of gasoline and diesel by as much as P6.00 per liter or the price of an 11-kg LPG tank by P90, Filipino families will have more to spend for food and other basic needs,” she said. With Paolo Romero