Recto seeks hike in food funding for malnourished children
Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto on Sunday vowed to increase funding for state-run feeding programs for malnourished children, noting that they get less food subsidies than the country’s prisoners.
This as he took the social welfare and education departments to task for failing to promptly disburse P2.6 billion in feeding program budgets last year.
In a statement, Recto said he would seek to raise the food budget for feeding programs of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Department of Education (DepEd) from P7.62 billion to P13.89 billion in the 2017 national budget.
This would benefit more than four million malnourished Filipino children: 2.15 million in DSWD day care centers, and 1.9 “severely wasted and underweight children” from public kindergarten and elementary schools under DepEd.
Currently, day care centers could only provide P13 meals while schools P16 meals to malnourished children, less than the P50 daily food budget per inmate in the country’s prison facilities, amounting to P16.70 per meal.
“The P6.2-billion additional funds are small compared to the number of beneficiaries. If there are additional funds for the salaries of government employees, why is there none for children?” Recto said in reference to the proposed increase in funding for wages under the 2017 budget.
Among Recto’s proposed amendments is to restore the P844 million in funding cut from the DSWD food program budget. In all, the lawmaker aims to raise the food funding for malnourished children to P30 under next year’s budget.
While seeking to raise the food budget, Recto also cited the “incompetence” of the DSWD and DepEd for the low utilization of budgets for the same purpose in 2015.
“The way they were carried out last year bordered on criminal neglect,” said Recto in a statement.
“[The] lesson learned here is that when bureaucrats dilly-dally, it is the children who suffer. Budget underspending worsens child malnutrition,” he said.
Per a Commission on Audit report, the Deped “delayed the release” of P1.4 billion out of the total P2.4 billion feeding budget in 2015, disbursing the funds to schools in the middle of November when the program was designed to provide supplemental feeding for 120 days.
The COA also found that DepEd’s P210-million health and nutrition funds were “underutilized,” Recto said.
He said the audit body also “reprimanded” the DSWD for the “delayed or non-implementation of the SFP in seven regions, due to lapses in program implementation deprived children beneficiaries of the opportunity to improve their nutritional status and health condition.”
The DSWD program involved a total of P1.23 billion in funding last year. JE/rga
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.