Inclusion of IPs in pilot run of food stamp program sought

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 20) — A senator on Wednesday proposed to include indigenous people in the pilot run of the government's food stamp program.

Senator Francis Tolentino stressed that some tribes in the country can only eat rice once a week and only have root crops as meals.

"Kasi sa experience ko last week, I visited several tribes in the mountains of Davao del Norte. I was given rice, umaga, nag-breakfast kami. Sabi nila, once a week lang sila nagra-rice," he said during the Senate's hearing on the proposed ₱209.92-billion budget for the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in 2024.

[Translation: Based on my experience last week, I visited several tribes in the mountains of Davao del Norte. I was given rice for breakfast. They told me that they only eat rice once a week.]

"Maliliit 'yung mga bata, the town is called Kapalong, isang tribo ng mga Manobo. So the rest of the week ang kinakain nila ay root crops," he added.

[Translation: The kids from the Manobo tribe in the town of Kapalong are small. So for the rest of the week, they only eat root crops.]

The pilot run of the food stamp program, which will run until December, targets 3,000 families from geographically isolated regions or provinces, and calamity-stricken areas. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has provided US $3 million grant for the pilot test.

Under the food stamp program, each family will be given tap cards containing ₱3,000 worth of food credits.

Social Welfare Secretary Rex Gatchalian said the agency will consider the senator's proposal as the ADB will provide another US $2 million grant.

"The initial grant was $3 million, but ADB is working out another grant for another $2 million and hopefully we will incorporate your input of looking into high concentration of IP communities," he said.

The food stamp program also includes pregnant and lactating women to address stunting among children. Gatchalian said the DSWD is proposing to incentivize barangay health workers (BHW) in the updating of the database of nursing mothers in each localities.

"That's why part of the program that we want to pitch later on to the economic managers when they start funding the program is to come up with a database that is LGU-driven," he said. "We can do incentives for our BHWs to correct, to update it biannually so we capture the picture of our pregnant and lactating women."