By Raymund Antonio, February 4, 2020; Manila Bulletin

The Duterte administration is focusing on reducing hunger incidence in “32 priority provinces” by 2022, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said on Tuesday.

Nograles, head of the anti-hunger task force, said the government set a target of a 25 percent decrease in the number of Filipinos experiencing hunger by the end of President Duterte’s term.

“One of our action plans is to prioritize the 32 provinces because if we will be able to do that, I think we will be able to meet our goals,” Nograles said at the Pandesal Forum
held in Quezon City.

But he was quick to clarify that this does not mean the other provinces won’t be part of the initiative to address and eradicate hunger in the country.

“When I say prioritize, we will not abandon the [rest of the] 81 provinces because all of these
will be synchronized. We will just give special attention to the 32,” he said.

In Luzon, the official identified the priority provinces as Camarines Sur, Masbate, Catanduanes, and Sorsogon, all located in Bicol region.

The others are Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental, Samar, Leyte, and Iloilo in the Visayas, as well as Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Saranggani, Lanao del Norte, Davao Occidental, Davao del Sur, and Agusan del Sur in Mindanao.

Also included are Lanao del Sur, Basilan, and Sulu in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Nograles said 5.5 million Filipinos suffer hunger in the Philippines, based on data from the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), while a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed the hunger rate was at about 9.5 million.

Duterte created the inter-agency task force on zero hunger under Executive Order 101, designating the Cabinet secretary as head of government efforts to attain zero hunger.

The task force is mandated to formulate a national food policy and provide a roadmap for achieving zero hunger.

Nograles also said they have expanded the partnership against poverty and hunger that seeks to link farmers’ organizations directly to feeding programs.