NOVEMBER 3, 2006 (STAR) By Aurea Calica - President Arroyo acknowledges the enormity of the problem on hunger and is behind government efforts to put food on the table of every Filipino household, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said here yesterday.

Bunye’s statement comes in the wake of a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, which showed that at least 2.9 million Filipino families or 16.9 percent of a projected base of 17.4 million households experienced hunger in the past three months.

"The government has been aware of the challenge of hunger among many Filipino households and President Arroyo continues to keep this issue at the top of her priorities," Bunye said in the statement.

Bunye said the government has engaged in a combination of measures to fight hunger — ranging from rolling stores selling food at socialized prices, emergency employment like the road improvement program, working with local governments to identify and serve families at the hunger threshold, aggressive agricultural extension services to the poorest farming and fisherfolk households and facilitation of foreign assistance such as the United Nations World Food Program in the conflict areas of Mindanao.

"This government will never relent in this fight until there is food on every table," Bunye said.

Earlier, the government convened the National Nutrition Council to determine ways to address the hunger problem while striving to curb it permanently through economic and political reforms that will attract investments and provide jobs for the people.

Bunye is here with the President for business meetings and a brief holiday.

Meanwhile, organized labor said it was not just the poor and those who are jobless who are suffering from hunger as even lowly paid workers go hungry.

The militant Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) said the growing incidence of hunger among Filipinos is directly related to the fact that a majority of workers nationwide are getting measly salaries.

"No jobs or with very little wages, Filipinos can barely survive day-to- day life. Most workers are lucky enough to have instant noodles, tuyo (dried fish) and rice as their staple food," KMU secretary-general Joel Maglunsod said.

Maglunsod issued his statement in reaction to results of the latest SWS survey.

According to Maglunsod major lucrative industries can be found in Mindanao, including multinational companies in food production, yet the incidence of hunger in the region is very high.

He said Mindanao workers, particularly those in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) provinces like Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and Marawi City receive the lowest minimum wage across the country.

"Workers in ARMM are getting only a meager P180 daily minimum wage as compared to the sky-high daily cost of living of nearly P800," Maglunsod said.

He said the increasing hunger incidence would continue to worsen as long as the Arroyo administration refuses to address the long overdue demand of workers for the P125 across-the-board wage increase for workers. — With Mayen Jaymalin

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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