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[Joint Press Release for Virtual Dialogue with Punong Barangays: Enabling Nutrition Devolution]

Manila, 4 October 2021. Recognizing the inadequate appreciation of the Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition 2017-2022 as the framework for addressing problems in nutrition at the barangay level, and the opportunities to scale up investment in nutrition brought by the implementation of the Supreme Court Ruling on the Mandanas-Garcia petitions and Executive Order 138, the National Nutrition Council (NNC) in partnership with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), and the Liga ng mga Barangay sa Pilipinas (LBP), spearheaded the conduct of a Virtual Dialogue with Punong Barangays: Enabling Nutrition Devolution.

“We recognize the important role of barangays in the delivery of nutrition related programs and services to help address malnutrition and other health problems in the community,” says Secretary Eduardo Año of DILG, who was ably represented by Undersecretary Martin Diño. The DILG sits as the Vice-Chair of the NNC Governing Board.

The Formative Evaluation of the PPAN 2017-2022 commissioned by NEDA in 2019 revealed that the formulation of Barangay Nutrition Action Plans (BNAPs) varies. The nutrition volunteers, called Barangay Nutrition Scholars (BNSs), often prepare said BNAPs and submit the same to the Barangay Nutrition Committees (BNCs) for approval with no information on the budget allocation despite the various guidelines issued by the DILG, DBM, and NNC to guide planning and budgeting. Also, a familiar clamor among the Barangay Nutrition Scholars is the poor appreciation of Punong Barangays and members of the nutrition committee of their roles and functions and the importance of investing and scaling up nutrition in their governance system.

In his message, Cabinet Secretary Atty. Karlo Alexei B. Nograles emphasized that “with the implementation of EO 138 or the SC Ruling on Mandanas-Garcia Petitions, it is my fervent hope that our Local Chief Executives, particularly our Punong Barangays and the sangguniang kabataan chairpersons would integrate, strengthen, and sustain our nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive programs in their local policies and plans.” CabSec Nograles is the current Chair of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Zero Hunger and Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Adviser for the Philippines.

NM ARTICLE

Nutrition Month is an institutionalized campaign held every July to create greater awareness among Filipinos on the importance of nutrition as provided under Presidential Decree 491, or the Nutrition Act of the Philippines. The law also mandates the National Nutrition Council (NNC) to lead and coordinate the nationwide campaign.

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Hunger, food insecurity, and malnutrition remain a significant challenge in the Philippines as a developing country and are further worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Nutrition Council acknowledges the urgent need for local government units to invest, scale up, and sustain evidence-based and multi-sectoral nutrition interventions to achieve the outcome targets of the Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition (PPAN) 2017-2022. 

The passage of Executive Order 138 and Supreme Court Ruling on the Mandanas-Garcia petitions is a huge opportunity for this to happen. Thus, a virtual dialogue with local chief executives (LCEs) was spearheaded by the NNC together with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP). The event hopes to serve as an opportunity for LCEs to recognize the dire state of malnutrition in the country, the need to focus on the first 1000 days of life, and adopt sound interventions used by high-performing LGUs on nutrition. The dialogue is also a sequel to the “Round Table Experience on Nutrition” convened by NNC last 29 May 2018, attended by Governors of 36 focus provinces of PPAN 2017-2022.

The National Nutrition Council, UNICEF and  the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) concluded the commemoration of the 47th Nutrition Month in the Philippines. The theme ‘Malnutrisyon patuloy na labanan, First 1000 days tutukan!’ highlights the significance of the first 1,000 days of a baby’s life, a golden window of opportunity for setting the foundations of optimum health, growth, and neurodevelopment with benefits that extend into adulthood.

The COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated hunger and food insecurities brought about by community quarantines, which disrupted employment and livelihoods, health and nutrition service delivery, and food supply chains.

The Philippines suffers from the triple burden of nutrition—undernutrition, hidden hunger or the lack of essential nutrients, and overweight. A third of Filipino children are stunted (low weight for age), placing the Philippines among the 10 countries with the highest number of stunted children worldwide. “Hidden hunger” conditions such as iron and iodine deficiency still affects babies and pregnant mothers. Childhood obesity is increasing, with nearly one in ten children aged 11-19 years currently suffering from overweight or obesity. The  rise in overweight and obesity is driven by marketing of highly processed products in the country.