THE P3.6 billion budget for the 120-day feeding program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) that aims to improve the health of 2.05 million children this year is “highly questionable,” according to a former lawmaker.
Former Rep. Renato Magtubo, of Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), has a cloud of doubts on the amount of the budget at P3.6 billion, the number of the beneficiaries, and the role of the incumbent mayors of various local government units (LGUs).
Magtubo, the national chairman of Partido ng Manggagawa (PMP), made it clear that the party-list does not oppose the feeding program of DSWD since it is intended to serve the children of the poor people, where majority of them are workers.
However, he stressed that DSWD Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman has a lot of explaining to do about the questionable points of the feeding project.
Magtubo’s concern was a reaction to the DSWD project, which it revealed three days ago.
According DSWD, it has “started to transfer the more than P3.6 billion budget of the Supplementary Feeding Program (SFP) for children to local government units (LGUs).”
It said SFP will benefit a total of 2.05 million children in 1,361 LGUs that include the children registered both in the LGU-run day care centers and supervise neighborhood play (SNP).
SFP was started by DSWD in 2010.
The SFP for this year was started on July 2, and it already benefited 341,179 children after a one-month period, DSWD said.
In defending the validity and correctness of the feeding project, DSWD stressed that it is “part of its (SFP) efforts to keep children well-nourished for the rest of the school year.”
Magtubo said to ascertain “the effectiveness of the program itself, [SFP] shall be subjected to proper evaluation.”
In effect, Magtubo was asserting that evaluation of the outcome of the SFP is necessary to find out if the DSWD feeding project is good or not compared to its set of targets.
Magtubo pointed out that “the amount involved is huge and the number of beneficiaries is so big that both [these items would lead]to manipulations or innovations in the implementation of the program by unscrupulous politicians and government officials in order to feed their pockets or ambitions and not [really]those intended poor beneficiaries.”
He said DSWD officials headed by Sec. Soliman must back up with solid pieces of evidence to prove the authenticity of more than 2 million children whom they claimed to benefit the SFP.
When asked about the 1,361 LGUs pegged by the DSWD as the conduit of the P3.6 billion SFP funds, Magtubo told The Manila Times “wow, Puwedeng umepal diyan ang incumbents lalo na re-electionists to boost their campaign.”
Magtubo, however, refused to name the names of the DSWD and LGU officials who would possibly do the corruption or fishy things in the implementation of P3.6 billion SFP.
DSWD noted that the truth of the matter is that the LGUs have their own feeding programs for the malnourished children.
The DSWD has only intervened by carrying out its own SFP in order to “augment the feeding program [of]LGU-managed day care centers and SNP.”
DSWD said that this could be done first by weighing the children beneficiaries “at the start of the feeding, three months thereafter, and after the completion of 120 feeding days’ cycle to determine improvement and sustenance in their nutritional status.”
DSWD will be “using indigenous food and/or locally-produced food equivalent to 1/3 of Recommended Energy and Nutrient Intake (RENI).”
The food supplementation will be in the form of hot meals served during a break/snack time in the morning or in the afternoon.
DSWD said that the parents are managing the feeding program based on a prepared meal cycle.
Soliman said “Proper nutrition is crucial to the growth and development of children specifically the 0-5 year old age bracket which are the formative years.”
SFP also improves the knowledge, attitude, and practices of children, parents, and caregivers through intensified nutrition and health education, she added.
Since he strongly believes that the SFP has a lot of highly questionable areas from the very beginning, Magtubo stressed that there is a necessity to carry out a “strict implementation” of the program as the “watchful eye of the people in charge of the program are needed in order for the program to succeed and the people’s money would not be put to waste.”
NELSON S. BADILLA