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Claim that corncobs part of staple diet is "absurd", says AHRC


Claim that corncobs part of staple diet is "absurd", says AHRC

(Hong Kong, December 23, 2005) The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) lambasted the absurd claim by Philippine authorities that corncobs were the staple diet of ordinary Filipinos on Wednesday.

The claim was made in a letter to the AHRC dated December 19, 2005, from the Office of the Governor in Alabel, Sarangani province, concerning their assessment report regarding the hunger of displaced families in the area.

The letter further implied that the poisonous frogs consumed by some families was not dangerous, as they were familiar with the art of cooking them, and did not reflect their desperate situation.

According to the Hong Kong based rights group however, the villagers have been forced to eat the poisonous frogs and corncobs only because they had no other source of food to eat. "The eating of these items cannot be deemed an appropriate food source for any Filipino," the group stated in a hunger alert.

The AHRC has previously highlighted the hunger and starvation faced by farmers in the province after being unfairly dismissed by the Sarangani Agricultural Company Incorporated. They have been living in hunger and poverty since 2003.

"It is clear that the local officials have not understood the magnitude of the problem. In fact, they have not understood the problem at all," said Basil Fernando, executive director of the rights group.

Although the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and provincial authorities have been aware of the case for over a year, and despite the existence of a provincial campaign to eradicate poverty and hunger, the affected farmers have received little assistance. In fact, some families were even reprimanded for making hunger complaints.

According to the AHRC, rice and other canned goods were provided to the victims earlier in the week. "Such short term measures will not do very much to resolve their situation, however," said Fernando. "The authorities must take measures for long term assistance and rehabilitation of the victims."

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About the AHRC The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-government organisation monitoring and lobbying for human rights in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.


Posted on 2005-12-23

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