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Human Rights Reflection Paper

Submitted by:


Submitted to:


Human Rights

18 September 2018

Right to food is a socio-economic right that protects all human beings

to live in dignity, food security, malnutrition and be free from hunger.

This right is recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

Article 25 (1)1 states that:

"Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-
being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing...".

Also right to food is enshrined under International Covenant on

Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Article 11, the States Parties "recognize
the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his
family, including adequate food, clothing and housing..." 2

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations founded in

its report entitled “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018”
that an estimated of around 821 million people or approximately 1 out of 9
people in the world are undernourished. 3 The number of malnourished are
increasing in areas of Africa, South America and in Asia.4

Also, severe food insecurity becomes prevalent in the world. According to

the Report, severe food insecurity means that a person has no food for a day or
more.5 The person goes an entire day without eating day in several times a
year. These problems cause threats to every person’s right to have an
adequate standard of living in terms of food.

On the other hand, in the case of the Philippines, hunger problem and
malnutrition problem increases. In year 2013, early childhood nutrition is
about P328 billion or 2.8% GDP due to the increase in education cost, reduced
human capital formation, and excess mortality. Several Filipinos were found to
suffer from poor diet or lack of food despite increase in food availability due to
lack of access to food caused by high poverty and low income in rural
population especially those engaged in agriculture. Higher food price especially
on food staple like rice worsen the situation.
FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO. 2018. The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the
World 2018. Building climate resilience for food security and nutrition. Rome, FAO. Licence:
CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO. Available at:
According to the Report of the World Food Programe, problem on food of
the Philippines were caused by Restrictive trade policies in rice, unresponsive
food system, climate change impact, and lack of resources and governance

Also, armed conflict and natural disasters affect the adequacy of food in
the Philippines.6 More and more families are displaced from their homes
resulting to serious problem in food and nutrition. 7

Recently, news were reported that there is a continous increase of price

of rice due to traders, middlemen and speculators who are riding on the tax
reform issue to justify their market and price manipulation.8 Since 2008, rice
problems are encountered by the Philippines hence the government introduced
a “Family Access Card” whereby families with cards were the only ones who
could buy NFA rice.9 The government pulled out rice from private sellers and
resold it to P25 / kilo. hardest. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) noted that
poor families allocate about 60% of their income for food items. 10 18% of the
poor’s income is spent on rice alone.

However, are these measures enough to protect the right to food of the
Filipinos? Do these address the problem?

The author maintains that right to adequate standard of living especially

in terms of food security can be protected and improved if we give due
consideration of upholding the basic civil rights of a person. The solution
should not focus on addressing the economic factor of demand and supply of
food but a total advocacy on basic civil rights.

Four Elements of Right to Food

The right to adequate food is realized when every man,

woman and child, alone or in community with others,
has physical and economic access at all times to
adequate food or means for its procurement. –
Committee on the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Lim, Anthony. (2016) Current food issues in the Philippines and what the WFP is doing.
Available at:
Simeon, Louise Maureen (August 22, 2018). Rice prices up for 8th straight month. Available
Hipolito, Rafael of FIAN International. (2008 September). The Right to Adequate Food in the
Philippines. Available at:
The right to food is achieved when every man, woman and child, alone or
in community with others, have physical and economic access at all times to
adequate food or means for its procurement. This right to adequate food
should not be interpreted in a narrow way but to be realized progressively. The
state has the obligation to take action to mitigate or eradicate hunger.

To achieve this, the State must ensure that the 4 elements of the right to
adequate food which are Availability, Accessibility, Adequacy and Sustainability
are present which are the following:11

Availability is achieved when possibilities for feeding oneself directly

from productive land or other natural resources or from working distribution,
processing and marketing system are present.

On the other hand, accessibility includes both physical and economic

accessibility. Physical accessibility is achieved when everyone has acccess to
food including the disabled, elderly, children even in times of disaster. On the
other hand economic accessibility means that food is affordable. A person will
be able to procure food without giving up other basic needs

Adequacy means that food should be able to meet dietary needs and
must be safe for human consumption. It should also be culturally acceptable.

Lastly, sustainability means that food is accessible to present and

future generation.



To ensure that the State uphold the elements to adequate food is if the
State will uphold every person’s basic right to property, life, education and
equality. Availability, Accessibility, Adequacy and Sustainability will be
achieved if the people were able to exercise their right to property, life,
education and equality.



If every person will be able to uphold their right to property and to own
a land, the food problem of the world will be resolved.

Ziegler, Jean. Right to Food. Available at:
The government have the choice to protect farmers by setting import
tariffs on rice sand other basic goods. This will help our farmers have a
competitive domestic rice industry.

The crucial reason why many Filipinos, especially in the rural areas,
were hungry, poor and have no capacity to buy enough and nutritious foods is
that most of the country’s wealth, income and resources including land, water,
capital and public were controlled by the few wealthy families.

For instance, in Negros Island it was reported that only 1,761 sugar
planters out of the 20,425 planters own more than 25 hectares. These 1,761
planters control 119,100 hectares while 14,952 small sugarcane planters, on
the other hand, whose land does not exceed 5 hectares, only control 32,274
hectares. Also, the Philippine Coconut Authority reported that that in the
coconut areas, 16,905 owners whose land totals 20 hectares or more control
1,485,000 hectares. Those owning less than 5 hectares, on the other hand,
total 777,587 but they control only 1.089 million hectares.

Due to this income and wealth gap between the rich and the poor,
millions of rural families find it very hard to earn and provide food and basic
commodities for their family.

According to statistics, the richest 1.74 million families out of 17.4

million families earned 36% of the total family income of over PHP3 trillion in
2006. 50% of families or about 8.7 million families had a total income of only
PHP571 billion.

In the case of the farmer –beneficiaries in Sumilao, Bukidnon, around

165 farmers struggle for their right to food. Even if these farmers were
identified as beneficiaries and were awarded a Certificate of Land Ownership
Award (CLOA) by the Department of Agrarian Reform in 1995, the land were
never distributed to them. Worst, the owner applied to convert the land from
agricultural to agro-industrial use and established the Bukidnon Agro-
Industrial Development Area. This permanently denies the right of the farmers
to the land.

Moreover, in the urban areas, the lack of access to regular jobs affect the
means of Filipinos to purchase basic food items such as rice, vegetables, fruit
and fish. Thus, we need to improve the Filipinos access to employment to
increase their capacity to buy food for their homes.


In 2008, more than 40 peasant leaders have been killed nationwide while
fighting for land reform. 12

Violence against were committed not only by the police or military but
also by non-state actors such as landowners and their hired thugs and even
alleged members of the New People’s Army. Violence were committed to groups
who asserts their right to access to land.

Based from reports, since 2001, 60 union members, labor leaders, and
advocates died since fighting for the the welfare of their union members. 123
Indigenous leaders died defending their ancestral lands against mining and
logging companies.

The UN Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples, Professor Rodolfo

Stavenhagen, said that “The pattern of human rights violations continues and
there has been an increase of these incidents… Even more worrisome is that …
current economic policies favor the dispossession of indigenous lands and
resources for the benefit of a handful of international corporations or other
private interests.”13

Specifically, there has been killing of a peasant leader in Panabo City,

Davao del Norte Province. On the other hand in San Francisco Quezon
Province, the right to food of 300 coconut farmers is threatened since the 2,800
hectares of coconut land owned by the Matias Family were still not distributed
to tenants in accordance with the enactment of Republic Act 6657 or the
Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL). Moreover, these farmers were
still forced to work as share croppers even if tenancy was already outlawed in
the 1960s.

In the area of Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte province, the mining

operations threaten the right to food of indigenous peoples. The right to food of
more than 250 indigenous Subanon families in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte
are threatened by the activities of a mining company called TVI Resource
Development Philippines. Due to the guise of the project “exploration”, 300
families are being threatened with eviction from their farmlands. The open-pit
mining has destroyed the mountains in Siocon, which provide a source of
income for the Subanon. This is also a place of ancestral domain of the
Partnership for Agrarian Reform & Rural Development Services (PARRDS) and FIAN
International reports to the Human Rights Council before the Universal Periodic Review of the
Philippine Government. Available at:
GMA News Online citing Bulatlat. (2007 February 11). UN rep: Political killings damaging
Arroyo image. Available at:
indigenous Subanon which are sacred to the natives. Indigenous people were
harassed by the security guards which is still prevalent up to present.

Considering these, the killing of the peasant leaders, union members

and indigenous people result to deprivation of the right to food hence we
should stop it. Violating right to life affects everyone’s right to food.


Restraint of civil rights such as right to property and right to life greatly
affects the people’s right to food. Hence, if we want to improve the socio
economic right of the citizens to achieve an adequate standard of living and
food, we must do something to uphold the people’s right to property and life.

Farmers should be given their land to farm. Workers should be given

employment in order to afford to buy food for the family. Besides addressing
the economic issues of food supply, means of livelihood should be extended to
each individual.

When the fundamental principles of human rights are not

protected, the centre of our institution no longer holds. It is
they that promote development that is sustainable; peace that
is secure; and lives of dignity.” – UN High Commissioner for
Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein

In turn, if the world and our country achieves adequate food security,
this will result to better labor productivity and longer lives. Students will have
better ability to learn and be more focused. When school situation improves,
women and children may also have access to it thus can reduce gender
inequalities. There will also be lower health care cost and famile will be more
secured and productive. Their resources can be channeled for other things. In
the longer run, the country will rise and improve thus better lives for everyone.