Malacañang on Wednesday said the recent finding of the Social Weather Stations (SWS) that 4.2 million families have experienced involuntary hunger the past three months was a “tragedy” caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The SWS national survey conducted from April 28 to May 2 found that 16.8 percent of Filipinos, or an estimated 4.2 million families, experienced hunger due to lack of food at least once in the past three months.

“Well, talagang nalulungkot po kami at talagang iyan po talaga ang trahedya dahil dito sa pandemyang ito,” Palace spokesman Harry Roque said in a virtual presser.

According to the SWS, the May 2021 hunger rate was double the December 2019 pre-pandemic level of 8.8 percent, or an estimated 2.1 million families.

“Habang hindi po tayo nababakunahan, hindi natin tuluyang mabubuksan ang ekonomiya at habang hindi natin bubuksan ang ating ekonomiya, talagang marami pong hanay sa atin ang magugutom,” Roque said.

Hunger czar and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said that while the numbers remained a concern, “all of them will be addressed.”

“There’s also survey data that suggest we are on the right track to reducing this,” he said during a pre-SONA forum of the Cabinet’s Human Development & Poverty Reduction Cluster.

“We’ve already seen this in [Metro Manila], and as more of our countrymen get vaccinated in other parts of the country, it will be possible to open the provinces up and allow our kababayan to resume their livelihoods,” he added. John Ezekiel J. Hirro