“A healthy environment is necessary for healthy people!” – Vandana Shiva

Finally, the days of the 1st Philippine Environment Summit came. As a health activist and safe food advocate, I was particularly excited to participate in the first day because it focused on healthy food and its connection to the environment with Vandana Shiva, a renowned Sustainable Agriculture activist, as one of the main speakers for the day.

I was really disappointed when I learned that she will not be able to make it physically because of a prior commitment but at the same time compensated to know that she was able to make a video message for the summit. I guess it was important for me that we/our struggle for a safe food system will be able to register in her consciousness; that India and the Philippines have the same fight. One day, hopefully, we will be able to have a learning exchange with them. Being in solidarity with those who fight the same fight is our only weapon against those giant companies that threaten not only our food system but the entire ecosystem.

Here is Vandana Shiva’s powerful message for us during the 1st Philippine Environment Summit of the Green Convergence.

For the breakout sessions in the afternoon, the organizers divided the concerns of safe food into three: Organic Agriculture (healthy food production from source), Safe Food Manufacturing (the business side of food production), and Health and Food (the nutritional content of food).

This session which I moderated was blessed with able and expert speakers from the perspectives of the consumers, policy-maker, health professional and practitioner.

We started with an eye-opening overview from the session Chair who is the Vice-President of the Consumer Rights for Safe Food (CRSF), Ms. Grace “Gigi” P. Chua. Sharing with you her powerpoint presentation below, which raised concerns on the food we eat today. My personal favorite was when she showed the diverse diets of the people all over the world, which was clearly based on the economic conditions of these people in the developed and developing countries.

After the consumer concerns, the session went on to discuss food policies and regulations. Ms. Tessa Cerbolles of the Food and Drug Administration of the Department of Health discussed the Philippine Food Safety Act of 2013. You may want to check out her powerpoint presentation below for more information on the law and the hazards that threatens our food.

Our third speaker shared her family’s personal journey on going back to the basics of eating healthy in an attempt to regain their lives back including the health of her two special children suffering from Autism. The process was painstaking but rewarding since her second son is now recovered from the illness. Check-out her inspiring story through powerful quotes in her prepared presentation below.

The fourth speaker in the session needs no introduction. This popular doctor have been gracing event after event and even the airwaves to educate people of simple and practical ways of staying healthy by using local, indigenous and readily available medicinal plants. Dr. Jaime Galvez Tan has been the Champion of Primary Health Care and Traditional Medicine in the Philippines, and in fact, helped shape it together with the late Senator Juan Flavier.

The last speaker of the session came from raw food and yogini goddess, Ms. Sonia Astudillo. Her main concern she raised was if there’s possibility to bring back compassion into the story of our food. And her work as a raw food chef, detox and health coach and yogini showed that it is possible through a raw vegan lifestyle. Learn more from her by previewing her presentation below. For more inquiries on her classes, you may visit her website at www.rawyoginisonia.com.

At the very end of the breakout sessions, the discussion should be able to come up with a presentation of policy recommendation/s. For the Health and Food session, below are the ones, which the speakers and participants think as critical in the realization of food safety:

  • Full implementation of the Food Safety Act of 2013 (RA 10611)
  • A research agenda defined by what the people needs and based on the local, indigenous resources found in the Philippines (trees and plants) with the help of local government research agencies – Philippine Council for Health Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (PCHRD-DOST) and the Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care (PITAHC)
  • Work for a healthy food environment (especially in school setting)
  • Support for SMEs in the food business 
  • Full implementation of the Consumer Act of the Philippines (RA 7394)
  • Full implementation & support of the Organic Agriculture Law
Further discussions the next day with other co-health/environment advocates made me realized that issues and concerns on health and the environment must be further discuss even more with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Commission on Audit (COA), the two agencies that add restrictions to people’s participation and the full functioning of government agencies with mandates to serve the people and the environment.
In addition to the discussions done face to face, I would like to share the research and inputs I did earlier showing the interconnections of various government agencies in the food and nutrition security of the country. This was my contribution to the crafting of the civil society’s alternative health budget using the whole budget approach. We in the Alternative Budget Initiative (Health Cluster) believe that the issues of health, food and nutrition are not solely the work of one agency but of the entire government. Below is a copy of my research and inputs on the discourse for your further understanding of the issue of food safety and nutrition. Happy reading!

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