A UN aid official warned Friday that the Philippines may end up having to feed people to save them going hungry as the market price of rice soars out of reach of ordinary households.
With prices of rice and wheat spiking in recent months, World Food Programme country director Valerie Guarnieri told AFP, "I think there's a possibility that the government would have to feed more people because of rising prices."
"Price rises mean people who previously were able to meet their own food needs through the market with their own income have been sort of pushed over that precipice and are no longer able to feed their families," Guarnieri said.
"So we see people who suddenly now would be eligible for assistance," she said, adding: "We're seeing it in many countries."
The UN agency now provides food aid to about 1.1 million of the Philippines' 90 million people.
Guarnieri said the UN was unlikely to ramp up its food aid to the Philippines immediately since it is considered a "middle-income country" with lower priority.
She also warned Manila could be hit in the pocket by having to boost spending on subsidies just to maintain current prices of the lowest-quality rice that it sells to the poor.
Guarnieri said rising rice prices and tight supplies could impact most severely on poor households in the rebellion-torn southern island of Mindanao because "we're looking at people who already spend 70 percent of their income on food and are having a real struggle meeting their needs.
"So any increase in the rice price to them is going to put them in a very difficult situation or make a difficult situation even worse."
Globally, she said the UN has appealed to the food programme donors to make them "understand that we're going to need more resources just to do what we're currently doing."