Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr OKs pilot, full implementation of DSWD’s food stamp program

2023 June 13

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has given his nod to the pilot and full implementation of the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) “Walang Gutom 2027” food stamp program, Malacañang announced on Tuesday.

Marcos gave his approval during a sectoral meeting attended by some Cabinet secretaries, including DSWD Secretary Rex Gatchalian and Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Teodoro Herbosa, Malacañang Press Briefer Daphne Oseña-Paez said in a press conference.

“President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. approved the pilot and full implementation of the projects under this program,” Oseña-Paez said.

“Aside from this, the President also tasked the DSWD, in coordination with the health department, to look into the nutritional value of the food that will be given to the program beneficiaries.”

Gatchalian, who joined the Palace press briefing, said the pilot run of the food stamp program “will take place shortly” and run for six months.

He reiterated that the pilot test of the Walang Gutom 2027 Program would be fully funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and the French Development Agency through grants amounting to USD3 million.

He noted that the ADB is working on other trust funds for the planned expansion of the pilot test.

“From the pilot (test), we will see the nuances – what needs to be improved, what needs to be enhanced, what needs to be discontinued. It will run for six months,” Gatchalian said.

“We are doing the pilot so that we don’t end up with wasteful spending. We want to make sure that when we do expand the program on its regular run, even if the President already approved it, we want to learn from the pilot and we want to start right. That’s the takeaway.”

Single parent, pregnant, lactating women’s inclusion

On May 23, Gatchalian announced that the “Walang Gutom 2027” Program, an initiative aimed at improving access to nutritious food, would benefit about 1 million food-poor families.

During the latest sectoral meeting at Malacañan Palace in Manila, Marcos wants the inclusion of single parents, as well as pregnant and lactating women, in the food stamp program.

“Bukod sa target beneficiaries na bottom one million households, pinatitiyak din ng Pangulo na mapabilang sa programa ang mga single parent, pregnant, at lactating women para ma-address ang first 1,000 days advocacy (Apart from the target beneficiaries of the bottom 1 million households, the President also wants to make sure that the program would also benefit the single parents, pregnant, and lactating women to address the first 1,000 days advocacy),” she said.

Republic Act 11148 or the First 1,000 Days Law provides the enabling environment for the sustained provision of critical early childcare interventions for the first 1,000 days of a child’s life for optimal growth and development.

Gatchalian said Marcos wants wider access to the food stamp program to address stunting and hunger in the country.

Herbosa, who was also present at the press conference with Palace reporters, noted that the stunting rates are 21.6 percent for ages 0 to 23 months old, and 28.7 percent for children under five years old.

He added that about 16.4 percent of pregnant women were malnourished, while 33.4 percent cannot eat the right food and are experiencing moderate to severe hunger.

“These are facts. These are Philippine data. This is a PSA (Philippine Statistics Authority)-submitted data. It’s just a national survey, which is done regularly so this assesses the nutrition part. So, I’m glad the President and Secretary Rex are focusing on food stamps and hunger because I will have less problems in health. Kasi tandaan ninyo (Remember), nutrition is related to wellness,” Herbosa said.

Local farmers’ role

Gatchalian said the program would benefit the local farmers who would be tapped to bring rural produce to the program.

He said the DSWD would also work with the Department of Agriculture led by Marcos to make sure that local produce would not go to waste.

“Thirty percent of farmers are actually poor. And they will benefit two-fold into this program. Not only do they get nutritious, delicious, affordable food, but ‘yung pino-produce din nila ay may bibili na (because their local products will be purchased) all of a sudden. So, it’s a captured market so to speak. A million Filipino families who are hungry will be your captured market,” he said.

Gatchalian earlier said the five pilot sites include the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao; the geographically isolated regions or provinces; urban poor settings; calamity-stricken areas; and the rural poor.

The actual implementation of “Walang Gutom” 2027 is expected to start by the first quarter of 2024.

Under the program, electronic benefit transfers would be loaded with food credits amounting to PHP3,000 to enable the targeted beneficiaries to purchase a select list of commodities from DSWD-accredited local retailers.

Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos (PNA)