By Christia Marie Ramos, October 12, 2020; Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines — The timely passage of the 2021 national budget is crucial in the government’s programs aimed at eradicating hunger in the country, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said Monday.

A reenacted budget will “definitely” affect President Rodrigo Duterte’s zero hunger plan, Nograles said in an interview over ABS-CBN News Channel.

“In a reenacted budget, we won’t get the new programs across. For instance, in my case, in our Zero Hunger Task Force, nakikiusap kami na magkaroon ng (we asked this Congress to allocate funding) complementary feeding program para sa stunted children under two at nutritionally at risk pregnant women and we’re trying to convince this Congress to put that in the 2021 budget,” he said.

“We won’t be able to implement that with a reenacted budget. And that’s just for my task force…ganun din ang mangyayari sa iba’t ibang mga departments na may sariling mga budgeted programs para naman sa kanilang mga mandato and specifically for anti-hunger and anti-poveryt. Mahihirapan po tayo and inclusing yung response natin sa covid, maghahanap pa tayo ng paraan kumbaga,” he added.

(We won’t be able to implement that with a reenacted budget. And that’s just for my task force…that will also be the case for other departments which have their own budgeted programs for their mandate, especially for anti-hunger and anti-poverty. We will struggle, including with our response to COVID, we would need to find a way to fund these.)

He said that under the proposed P4.5 trillion budget for 2021, funding is allocated for various programs to address hunger in the country.

In a recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, some 7.6 million Filipino households said they experienced involuntary hunger in the past three months amid the pandemic.

“Napaka-importante yung 2021 budget dahil dito nakapaloob ang pagtugon natin sa pangangailangan ng ating mga kababayan, lalung-lalo na sa mga kaabayan natin sa COVID at siyempre nakapaloob dito yung tungkol sa zero hunger natin, yung efforts natin to eradicate hunger in the Philippines,” Norgrales said.

(The 2021 budget is really important because under this are funding for programs aimed to address the needs of our countrymen, especially for COVID-19 as well as for efforts to eradicate hunger in the Philippines.)

Included in the 2021 budget is funding for the National Nutrition Council, he noted.

The council, which is made up of different departments, is mandated to “end all forms of malnutrition,” said Nograles.

Fears of a reenacted budget surfaced after the House of Representatives abruptly suspended session until November 16, which essentially delayed the final approval of the bill that contains the country’s 2021 budget.

The President has already called for a special session of Congress from October 13 to 16 to avoid delays in passing the national budget for next year.