Malnourished kids’ food budget smaller than prisoners’
MALNOURISHED Filipino children receive a smaller food subsidy than prisoners.
Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto made the observation in a statement yesterday as he vowed to increase the budgets for feeding programs of the Department of Social Welfare and Development and Department of Education from a combined 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 of them in DSWD daycare centers and 1.9 million“severely wasted and underweight children” in the public kindergarten and elementary schools under the DepEd.
Prisoners to get more
Currently, daycare centers can only provide P13 meals while schools can afford P16 meals for malnourished children, lower than the P50 daily food allowance per allowance in the country’s prisons, which amount to P16.70 per prisoner meal.
At a recent budget hearing, the Senate committee on finance had found the prison food budget too small, with chair Sen. Loren Legarda proposing to raise the daily allocation to P75.
None for children
“The P6.2-billion increase in the food budget is small considering the number of beneficiaries. If there are additional funds for the salaries of government employees, why is there none for children?” Recto said referring to a proposed increase in government wages under the 2017 budget.
Among Recto’s proposed amendments is the restoration of the P844-million in funding cut from the DSWD food program budget. The lawmaker aims to raise the food al location for malnourished children to P30 per meal in the 2017 budget.
Recto took the DSWD and DepEd to task and raised the need to task on underspending for their respective supplemental feeding programs in 2015.
“The way they were carried out last year bordered on criminal neglect,” Recto said in a statement.
“[The] lesson learned here is that when bureaucrats dillydally, 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 the DepEd’s P210-million health and nutrition funds were “underutilized,” Recto said.
He said the audit body “reprimanded” the DSWD for the “delayed or non-implementation of the SFP in seven regions, due to lapses in program implementation which deprived children-beneficiaries of the chance to improve their nutrition and health.”
The DSWD program involved a total of P1.23 billion in funding last year.
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