MANILA, November 30, 2004
(STAR) By Marichu Villanueva - Solving widespread hunger in the country is not the sole duty of the government but should be a concern of each and every Filipino, Malacañang said yesterday.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye took strong exception to a report that painted the government as lacking in concrete programs to adequately address the reported growing number of Filipinos going hungry due to the high incidence of poverty.

"Poverty alleviation has been the bedrock of the President’s priority agenda and the end-goal of the economic reform measures we are vigorously pushing," Bunye said, apparently in reply to the report by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ).

"Improving the lives of the poor cannot be done overnight for this is a task which requires broader cooperation domestically, greater economic and political security on a regional scale, fighting corruption and putting our fiscal house in order," he stressed.

Bunye issued the statement from Vientiane, Laos where he is part of the official delegation of President Arroyo in the ongoing 10th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders summit.

"Today, despite poverty alleviation measures that have been in place for the last two decades, millions more families have slipped under the poverty line, and even more mothers are going hungry as their husbands and children make do with less and less food on the table," the PCIJ reported.

The President has repeatedly vowed to cut by half the 38 percent poverty incidence within the next six years. This, she said, is the long-term solution to end hunger of more than a third of the 80 million Filipinos.

In her address at the second ASEAN Business and Investment Summit last Sunday, the President said governments of the 10 member-states of the ASEAN should strive to build a compassionate and humane world to benefit the poor, in their quest for greater economic partnership under the envisioned East Asian economic bloc.

"Because beyond the economic issues, there is a challenge to our hearts and conscience to build a more caring and more compassionate world where decent men and women work together not only in a quest for profit, but also for the benefit of the poor," she said.

Under her fresh mandate in office, Mrs. Arroyo cited that the Philippines is engaged in democratic reforms and economic restructuring "to eliminate corruption, slay the deficit dragon, and bring new jobs and prosperity to our nation’s poor."

She called on more developed countries in the region like Japan, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam and Malaysia to help their less developed neighbors improve the quality of life of their people so that their per capita income would also be raised.

For his part, former President Fidel Ramos stressed that the Philippines has advantages that can make the country more competitive and bring prosperity.

In a press conference before leaving for a conference in Bangkok, Thailand, Ramos cited the country’s strategic location in terms of trade and commerce — right in the middle of the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean. — With Sandy Araneta

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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