MANILA (UPDATE) - Some 5.2 million Filipino families experienced involuntary hunger in the past 3 months as the country battled the COVID-19 pandemic, the highest since 2014, an independent Social Weather Stations survey showed Wednesday.
Of 1,555 adult Filipinos surveyed, 20.9 percent said they experienced "hunger due to lack of food to eat," up from the 16.7 percent recorded in May.
The figure is the highest recorded since September 2014, when 22 percent of respondents- equivalent to 4.8 million families- reported experiencing hunger, SWS said.
In the July survey, 15.8 percent or 3.9 million families said they experienced moderate hunger or "only once or a few times" in the last 3 months, while 5.1 percent or 1.3 million families said they experienced severe hunger or "often or always" in the same period.
The study found hunger was highest in Visayas at 27.2 percent (1.3 million families), where it increased by 12.6 percent from the last survey.
It was followed by Mindanao at 24.2 percent (1.4 million families), Balance Luzon at 17.8 percent (2 million families) and Metro Manila at 16.3 percent (546,000 families).
The incidence of hunger rose among families of non-elementary graduate respondents to 35.6 percent from 21.1 percent, SWS said.
It was followed by households of junior high school graduates at 20.9 percent, and college graduates at 8.9 percent, the pollster added.
The survey was conducted from July 3 to 6 using mobile and computer-assisted telephone interviewing and had a sampling error margin of ±2 percent for national percentages.
The Philippines in June allowed limited resumption of work and public transportation as it attempted to resuscitate the economy from one of the world's longest coronavirus lockdowns.
Malacañang on Wednesday said the survey shows the importance of reopening the economy following nearly 3 months of strict lockdown.
"We therefore call on our citizens that in order to save the economy and people’s jobs, we first have to save lives by ramping up testing for COVID-19 and observing the minimum public health standards by wearing masks, washing hands and keeping a safe distance," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.
The nearly 80-day strict quarantine shut the capital region that is home to a tenth of the country's 100 million people and accounts for a third of gross domestic product. The pandemic caused the economy to shrink in the first quarter, the first in 22 years, and left some 7.3 million Filipinos unemployed.