By Genalyn Kabiling, April 2 2019; Manila Bulletin

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The government is planning to form a new inter-agency task force that will focus on eradicating hunger in the country by 2030.

President Duterte has approved a proposed executive order on the creation of the Zero Hunger Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) that will formulate a “national food policy” during the Cabinet meeting last Monday, according to Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles.

The executive order will be released to the public as soon as it is finalized, he added.

“The President and the members of the Cabinet recognize that we have to adopt additional measures to combat hunger given how data shows that it is problem that cannot be ignored,” Nograles said.

“It is apparent that current efforts aren’t enough, and that at this point an inter-agency task force that can focus and align the different work being done to address the different aspects of hunger is needed,” he added.

Nograles said data indicated that 2.4 million families experienced moderate to extreme hunger in 2018, 13.7 million Filipino children are undernourished, while a fifth of children aged five and below are underweight.

Under the proposed EO, the task force to be chaired by the Cabinet Secretary will be assigned to formulate a “national food policy” to attain zero hunger and eliminate poverty.

The task force will also rationalize existing laws and policies on hunger and poverty alleviation consistent with international laws and treaty obligations; identify and ensure responsibilities of government agencies and adopt a whole of government approach; monitor government’s compliance of periodic targets and programs, among others.

The task force will have the Department of Social Development and Welfare and Department of Agriculture as vice chairs.

Members include the Executive Secretary and the heads of national agencies, as well as Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor, Office of Civil Defense Administrator, Commission on Higher Education Chairperson, Philippine Commission on Urban Poor Chairperson, Philippine Commission on Women Chairperson, Food and Drug Administration Director General, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority Director General, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples Executive Director, National Nutrition Council Executive Director, National Anti-Poverty Commission Lead Convenor, and Food and Nutrition Research Institute Director.

“The ultimate goal of the Task Force is to totally eradicate hunger by 2030,” Nograles said.

“We plan to get there eventually. Our first milestone is to reduce current hunger levels by 25% two and a half years after the EO is issued. The next step is to cut hunger incidence by half in five years after the issuance of the EO, and reduce hunger by 75% within seven-and-a-half years,” he added.