State of PH Nutritional Policies

by Angel Grace D. Untalan, AUGUST 2022

Since the passage of Presidential Decree No. 491, s. 1974, no inkling of change may be distinguished from the initial rationale of its enactment. 

A plain reading of its first few clauses show that malnutrition still affects millions of people. 

Studies remain indicative that malnutrition is the leading vulnerability present among infants, young children, pregnant women, and nursing mothers. 

Through this enabling law, a National Nutrition Council was established to act on its mandate of formulating an integrated national program on nutrition 

The Council is also tasked to supervise the implementation of the government’s integrated Philippine Food and Nutrition Program. 

At present, institutionalized programs and laws concerning nutrition include R.A. No. 11148 (An Act Scaling Up the National and Local Health and Nutrition Programs Through a Strengthened Integrated Strategy for Maternal, Neonatal, Child Health and Nutrition in the First One Thousand (1,000) Days Of Life), R.A. No. 11037 (An Act Institutionalizing A National Feeding Program for Undernourished Children in Public Day Care, Kindergarten and Elementary Schools to Combat Hunger and Undernutrition Among Filipino Children), and R.A. No. 10862 (An Act Regulating the Practice of Nutrition and Dietetics in the Philippines), among others. 

The Constitution, no less, upholds the right to health as a fundamental right guaranteed by the State. 

Nutritional concerns, defined. 

Undernutrition, for one, is considered a result of inadequate food intake in terms of either quantity or quality, poor utilization of nutrients due to infections or other illnesses, or a combination of these immediate causes. 

Malnutrition, on the other hand, refers to both undernutrition caused by deficiencies and overnutrition caused by unbalanced diets that involve consuming too many calories, among others. 

The above-cited definitions were laid down in the Global Hunger Index report of 2021 (2021 GHI Report), a tracker measuring trends in hunger and undernutrition since 2006. 

The index was designed to raise awareness and provide a way to compare levels of hunger between countries and regions. 

Relevant data shows the Philippines placing 68th in said 2021 GHI report, amidst the prevalence of the COVID-19. 

Considering the pandemic, the report further noted that economic downturns are inevitable, thus, better safety nets to prevent hunger and malnutrition in a universal scale shall be required. 

Bridging local policies and nutritional gaps 

Prior to the conduct of national elections, both chambers of Congress have been working on the passage of new laws to bridge the gap in nutritional policies. 

Several bills include Senate Bill No. 1264 (An Act Promoting Integrated Urban Agricultural Development in All Metropolitan Areas Nationwide to Address Food Security Concerns), Senate Bill No. 2126 (An Act Ensuring Zero Hunger for All Filipinos), and Senate Bill No. 2458 (An Act Providing a Framework to Protect and Promote the Right to Adequate Food). 

Provisions common to these proposed legislations are data-driven, specifically on targets for the State, or the Philippine Government, to ensure, among others, that in two and a half years after the effectivity of the proposed Act, the incidence of hunger shall be reduced by twenty-five percent (25%), from the level recorded at the time of its passage and ultimately, to ensure that in ten (10) years, there shall be zero hunger incidence in the country (S.B. No. 2458). 

Further, the State is also encouraged to adopt a whole-of-government approach to eliminate or eradicate hunger by 2030 (S.B. No. 2126). 

Notwithstanding the pendency of these bills which have yet to be enacted as laws, the Chief Executive have already expressed that food security is a top priority, primarily so, by taking the helm of the Department of Agriculture in the interim. 

In this light, agricultural groups hope to thrive in the Executive’s professed support for agricultural development which intends to deliver food self-sufficiency for many Filipinos. 

Global Zero Hunger Initiative 

Evidently, legislators anchor their proposed enactments on the widely accepted 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, a collection of 17 interlinked global goals designed to be a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all”. 

The 2021 GHI report leads to the conclusion that the world will not be on track to achieve the Zero Hunger sustainable development goal by 2030. 

At best, international assemblies yield relevant policy recommendations for the guidance of countries that require immediate action towards local nutritional concerns. 

During the recent United Nations Food Systems Summit, the proposed primary course of action includes the enhancement of resilience in food systems to simultaneously address impacts of conflict and climate change affecting food and nutrition security. 

To supplement this, Governments were urged to address structural challenges such as, but not limited to, inequities, market failures, health risks, environmental, and climate threats embedded in our food systems. 

As initiatives are raised in a global scale, it is imperative, to the extent possible, that food and nutritional policies are centered around those with identified vulnerabilities of under or over nutrition. 

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About the writer:

Angel Grace D. Untalan. A Legal Management graduate with an inclination to pursue the field of higher arts. She is moderately comfortable with social interaction, but can also relish her time off from the crowd. Her works are influenced by distinguished screenwriters such as Gene Roddenberry, George R.R. Martin, and Quentin Tarantino. She aspires to become a law practitioner at The Hague, who has published papers in a Scopus-indexed journal at some point in the future.

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