Rice prices hurt poor in Philippines


Garbage scavengers abound in the impoverished Manila area of Tondo,
where thousands of families earn less than 200 pesos (5 US dollars) a day.

Most families subsist on segregating and selling recyclable waste such
as plastics and styrofoam. They also live among the mounds of garbage bags
that they transport from nearby dumpsites. Amy Ignacio has been collecting trash from a fastfood restaurant for the past six years. Feeling wasteful about throwing away the leftover chicken with some meat remaining, she re-cooks them to feed her children.

They call it "pagpag," meaning recycled. With food inflation eating up the income of families living in Tondo, some days they can only buy a few kilos of rice, turning more and more to "pagpag." "A lot of scavengers sell recycled food that they segregate from other waste. It's common practice around here. With the kind of life we live, this helps a lot.

When you buy a bag worth a few pesos, you can already feed one whole family," Ignacio said. She said none of her three children have gotten sick from eating recycled food. When she collects enough enough, Ignacio shares the re-cooked leftovers with her neighbors. The National Anti-Poverty Commission warns that eating recycled food severely compromises the children's nutrition, and food-related diseases may appear later.

"I eat this sometimes, when my mother does some scavenging. It tastes good," said seven-year-old Mariz Lozada. Ryan Telegrepo, Ignacio's neighbor, said poor people's appetites are not choosy enough to reject recycled food. He is not even worried about feeding leftovers to his seven-month old baby. "Before we would only get a pinch, eat some leftovers.

Now, it's our main meal. Recycled food. That's why you see many people selling it in small bags," he said. Though the practice is widespread in the Tondo area, the chairman of a scavengers' cooperative prohibits his members from eating and selling recycled food.

"You don't know where this food is from. It's as if you devalue the person by selling him food that has already been eaten. It's inhuman," said Danny Tanael, chairman of Eco-Aid cooperative. The National Anti-Poverty Commission also warns against eating leftovers and prescribes needy families to apply for cash transfers to buy food.

"There are other sources of livelihood through which poor families can earn. At the end of the day, this kind of food taken from garbage bags is not good for the health," said Dolores de Quiros-Castillo, assistant secretary for the anti-poverty commission. Three out of ten Filipinos in a population of 88.57 million live below the poverty line. An estimated 27.6 million families survive on less than 6,274 pesos (149 US dollars) a month.

I'll swear if i am rich, i will help them.


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