Prioritize funding vs malnutrition, not confi, intel funds – Drilon

Former Senate President Franklin M. Drilon called on the government to direct funds towards feeding malnourished children rather than channeling billions of pesos into Confidential and Intelligence Funds (CIF).

Drilon made the call during a feeding and nutrition program called the “Mingo Meals for Nutrition Program” in Iloilo City on Tuesday, which was made possible due to the former senator’s assistance.

Drilon was able to raise P3.6 million funds from the private sector.

The Philippines is grappling with a pressing health and socio-economic problem. According to recent data from the Department of Health (DOH), about 29.5% of the 11 million Filipino children under 5 years and below are malnourished and stunted, according to Drilon.

“The malnutrition crisis in our country is an urgent matter that demands our immediate attention. It is disheartening to know that 3.245 million Filipino children are malnourished. This issue must be prioritized, especially when we consider the allocation of funds in the 2024 national budget, where over P10 billion is allocated to Confidential and Intelligence Funds (CIF). We need to ask ourselves how much is devoted to malnutrition,” Drilon said.

“We’re supporting this initiative to highlight the problem of malnutrition in the Philippines and in order to invite the attention of the public and the government to the malnutrition issue. This is really a problem for the country. Can you imagine 3.245 million Filipino kids are malnourished. To me, this should be prioritized, not the confidential and intelligence funds,” Drilon stressed.

He cited various studies such that of the United Nations Children’s Fund which found out that 95 children succumb to the effects of malnutrition daily, as well as the World Bank which revealed that malnutrition has remained a serious problem in the country for nearly 30 years with one in every three Filipino children aged 5 years old and below suffering from stunting as one of the severe effects of malnutrition.

“This deeply worrying statistic not only poses immediate threats to the health of our children but also jeopardizes their educational prospects and overall future potential,” he said.

He argued that the Philippines’ dismal performance in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is linked to the issue of hunger and inadequate nutrition among Filipino children.

“The PISA survey underscores the correlation between malnutrition and education, showing that stunting adversely impacts the capacity of our children to learn,” he said.

According to the 2022 PISA study, the Philippines’ performance in the three subjects remained relatively unchanged compared to 2018 when it first participated in the assessment.

In the 2018 PISA study, the Philippines scored the lowest in reading and second lowest in math and science among the 79 participating nations.

In the latest 2022 assessment, the Philippines ranked sixth from the bottom in reading and mathematics, and it was positioned third from the bottom in science among the 81 participating countries.

Meanwhile, Millie Kilayko, President of NVC, said that 60 malnourished children in Iloilo City and about 1,000 children in Iloilo province would receive nourishing meals for one year, thanks to the generous funding provided by businessman and philanthropist Alfonso Tan and his wife Helen and former Senator Drilon, who has volunteered to raise funds to address this issue.

According to Kilayko, the program extends beyond meal provisions; it includes regular weight check-ups for children and wellness counseling for parents, facilitated by barangay nutrition volunteers.

Kilayko emphasized the program’s success rate: “We have achieved an 88 percent success rate and have helped more than 50,000 malnourished children in 60 provinces since the program’s inception.”