By Ian Nicolas P. Cigaral

THE PROPORTION of families who suffered hunger at least once in the last three months fell to single-digit level for the first time in more than 13 years, according to results of a Social Weather Stations (SWS) quarterly survey.

The Second Quarter 2017 Social Weather Survey, conducted on June 23-26 via face-to-face interviews with 1,200 adults nationwide, has sampling error margins of ±3 points for national percentages and ±6 points each for Metro Manila, Balance Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao.

A summary of survey findings said the hunger it measures involves “involuntary suffering because the respondents answer a survey question that specifies hunger due to lack of food to eat.”

The survey period coincided with the end of President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s first year in office.

The survey found 9.5%, or an estimated 2.2 million families, experiencing hunger at least once in the past three months, the lowest reading since March 2004’s 7.4%.

But while the latest reading was the lowest in more than a decade, it generally steadied from the preceding month and from a year ago, specifically: 2.4 points below the 11.9% (estimated 2.7 million families) logged in March 2017 and 5.7 points lower than June 2016’s 15.2% (3.4 million families).

The year-ago survey was conducted on June 24-27, days before Mr. Duterte assumed office at noon of June 30, 2016.

SWS said last month’s single-digit quarterly hunger reading is the sum of those who experienced “moderate” hunger, or “only once” or “a few times” in the last three months, and those who suffered “severe” hunger, or “often” or “always” in the same period.

“The few who did not state their frequency of hunger were classified under ‘moderate’ hunger,” SWS noted in its report.

Moderate hunger slipped by 1.9 points to 7.9% (estimated 1.8 million families) in June, the lowest reading since March 2004’s 4.6%, while severe hunger edged down 0.6 of a point to 1.6% (estimated 374,000 families) that was the lowest reading since September 2016’s 1.5%.

“Both moderate hunger and severe hunger fell between March 2017 and June 2017. Both have been steadily declining since December 2016,” SWS noted.

The latest involuntary hunger readings coincide with the six-point fall in self-rated poverty and the three-point drop in self-rated food poverty between March and June, SWS said.

From March to June, hunger rate slipped by 3.5 points to 13.6% among self-rated poor, and by 3.6 points to 17.1% among the self-rated food-poor.

Hunger readings generally steadied across geographical areas between March and June, baring marginal decreases at best: by 0.4 of a point — “virtually unchanged” — to 11.3% (estimated 593,000 families) in Mindanao, Mr. Duterte’s bailiwick; by 0.7 of a point to 11.3% (estimated 353,000 families) in Metro Manila; by three points to 8.3% (848,000 families) in Balance Luzon and by five points to 8.7% (383,000 families) in the Visayas.

Sought for comment, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto C. Abella said the latest readings reflected “significant headway in alleviating poverty and bringing prosperity in our first year in office.”

“Many pro-poor and inclusive programs and projects made a dent to the lives of many families,” Mr. Abella said in a mobile phone message.

“No Filipino deserves to get hungry or experience hunger. The overarching goal of the Duterte administration is to lay down the foundation of a comfortable life for all.”

Also commenting on SWS’s latest survey results, Antonio G. M. La Viña, former dean of the Ateneo School of Government, said in a separate text message that the marginal decrease in quarterly hunger readings is a “good sign.”

“This is still, in my view, residual impacts of (former President Benigno S.C.) Aquino (III) programs and policies,” Mr. La Viña said.

“But (Mr.) Duterte’s administration can take credit that they have done no harm so far.”

Hunger level lowest since March 2004