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Talk of Prof. Nene Pimentel at the Nutrition Council Awards on October 21, 2014, PICC, Pasay City).

NNC Executive Director; Assistant Secretary of Health Maria Bernardita T. Flores; officers and members of the NNC, distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen:

Your activities as Nutrition Council not only in the past year but over the years as well show that all is not lost in this country.

Sometimes, we, the citizens of this country, get the impression from media that muggings, killings, and violence galore, and thievery by people in-or-out of government are all that our people can expect of their daily fare.

Congratulations, then, to the NNC for singling out some of our provinces, cities and municipalities, and outstanding barangay nutrition volunteers for the awards that your Council bestows on them for their outstanding achievements.

They deserve the awards.

They give honor to our country and people.

More than some politicians, your honorees serve the best interests of our nation.

As you spotlight the achievements of your honorees, let me say that I can only hope that the NNC gets the support not only of the national government, but also of the local government units in the promotion of your vital projects.

I hope that the local nutrition councils are getting a fair share in the budgets of your LGUs.

Unlike in 1990, when the newly enacted Local Government Code was implemented, LGUs only had minimal shares in the BIR collected taxes of the nation.

Now, most LGUs talk of millions, indeed, a good number refer to the billions of pesos in their treasury, either as their internal revenue shares, or even as locally generated funds that they use to serve their constituencies.

That said, I am sure that the usual reaction of  LGU bureaucrats would be to assert that “we can no longer allocate more funds to nutrition projects because we do not have enough money!”

My response to that knee-jerk assertion, my dear friends, is to rebut it with the commonsensical observation that, indeed, money is never enough.

That is why billionaires who are already wallowing in so much wealth are still trying to make more money.

Hence, the workable solution to the problem that we have posed is for the LGUs to  PRIORTIZE their funds so that they can allocate more money to address the NUTRITIONAL needs of their people.

There is a proposed legislation called, “the Bigger Pie, Bigger Slice Bill” filed by a certain senator by the name of Koko that may alleviate the lack of funds for local government projects, like Nutrition.

In the meantime, while waiting for the passage of that bill, the feasible solution is for local governments to also PRIORITIZE their expenditures.

Meaning, allocate more funds to matters that are urgently needed by their constituencies.

And I dare say that NUTRITION should be among the top priorities of our government - both national and local.

Indeed, what would be the meaning of good roads, imposing buildings, and other infrastructures in our country if you see skeletons, skin-and-bones, gaunt people walking on the streets of our communities like zombies in some Hollywood horror movies?

And all because those people are hungry - not only in the literal sense, but especially in the nutritional sense?

Some people think that remedy lies in the enactment of laws.

That is, certainly, one solution.

The Local Government Code is one such example.

But, my dear friends, the Code is not the panacea for all the ills of our country.  Although, it must be admitted that, at the very least, the Code empowers local communities to address more directly matters of vital concern to their residents.

Good laws need good implementors.

Good laws will not turn this country around for the better.

You still need good people in government to implement them, faithfully and well.

And you need good citizens who are conscious of their rights and obligations to the nation to put in good people in government.

May I, then, stress this point: that some of our local officials are probably inhibited from doing things for their people unless these are enumerated in black and white as among the powers devolved to them either in the Code or in some other pertinent legislation.

That is the safest way of doing things. But there are more innovative ways that are also legal and beneficial to the nation. Such as those shown by the likes of Jesse Robredo, God rest his soul, when he was mayor of Naga City.

Essentially, what Jesse did was to use not only the express powers of cities as embodied in the Local Government Code, but he also availed of the broader powers guaranteed in the Constitution and reflected in the Code for the promotion of the common welfare.

Ang ibig sabihin, kahit wala doon sa enumerated powers of the local governments, basta’t ito ay makakabuti sa mga taong bayan, kayang gawin ng mga probinsiya, syudad, munisipyo at barangay. Basta’t di labag sa Constitution at mga batas na umiiral.

Thus, to go back to our topic today, allocating more funds for the nutrition of people is a function that should be given top priority by the national as well as by the local government units.

That the NNC is giving credit where it is due deserves our applause.

And because we are only human, it is also important that good people working to advance the cause of good governance like the members of the NNC, and their volunteer workers at the provincial, city, municipal, and barangay levels must be given a pat on their backs which the awards that are being handed out to them on this occasion try to do.

As I close, I would like to advert to one of the major miracles of Our Lord. And that is the feeding of thousands of hungry people from a few loaves of bread and some fish.

That the Good Lord was moved into addressing the hunger of the people who followed him into the desert by performing a miracle should be a sufficient motivation for us to do likewise - not that we can replicate His miraculous ways, but, at the very least, we can begin to see the vital importance of our feeding the hungry even in our own small way.

Here’s my favorite quote on the issue of feeding the hungry  “If you cannot feed one hundred, feed one.”

Congratulations, then, are due to Secretary Ona, the officers and members of the NNC where good ideas on nutrition probably enunciated at the national level meet factual reality through the intervention of the Barangay Nutrition scholars who do their thing in their provinces, cities, municipalities, and barangays.

And to the LGU officials and employees  who provide palpable proof that when national and local government units get their act together - in the area of nutrition as the affair today graphically shows - inevitably the common good is advanced in a concrete matter.