Hunger hits record high in the Philippines

The number of Filipinos who said they went hungry rose to a record high with nearly 17 percent of people surveyed saying they had nothing to eat at least once over a three-month period, a survey group said Friday. Of the Filipino households queried, 16.7 percent reported experiencing hunger in the last quarter of 2005, the independent Social Weather Stations survey group said, a record high since it began hunger surveys in mid-1998.

The survey also found those describing themselves as living in poverty rose to 57 percent from 49 percent in the previous quarter. The SWS said the proportional figure, or an estimated 2.8 million families, surpassed the previous peak of 16.1 percent in March 2001. The proportion of people going hungry has been in the double-digits ever since the second quarter of 2004.

"These directly measured high levels of economic deprivation demonstrate yet again that orthodox economic statistics such as Gross National Product give a very misleading picture of the state of economic well-being," the group said.

The survey was released just days after President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo declared war "against poverty, hunger and unemployment," and ordered the release of 35 billion pesos (US$660.38 million; Ђ546.27 million) to "pump prime" the economy.

The SWS said the highest proportion of hunger reported, 21.7 percent in December from 12 percent in August 2005, was in the southern Mindanao region, which has been wracked by more than three decades of Muslim rebellion, extremist terror and communist insurgency. Hunger also rose in metropolitan Manila to 21 percent from 16.7 percent and in the central Visayas region from 13.3 percent to 14.3 percent during the same period.

The survey was based on interviews between Nov. 27-Dec. 4 of 1,200 household heads randomly selected nationwide, including 300 from metropolitan Manila. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. Hunger was defined as having nothing to eat at least once in the past three months, excluding fasting for religious or other purposes, reports the AP. I.L.

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