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Preparation needed for looming food shortage amid health crisis

Senator Win Gatchalian raised the alarm as the COVID-19 crisis has not only affected the people but the country’s food security as well, given the real situation on the ground.


MANILA, Philippines – With a signage conspicuously showing a government directive against hoarding and panic buying, a cashier staff punches limited grocery items at a popular chain store in Sta. Mesa district, 28 March 2020. Senator Win Gatchalian said the government’s food resiliency protocol should be properly coordinated to speed up the transport of major agri-fishery commodities from the provinces to Metro Manila and other urban areas in Luzon and ensure the flow of food supplies and other food raw materials amidst the enhanced community quarantine. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

Gatchalian cited that some wet markets in the metropolis have now resorted to selling carabao meat due to beef shortage. He added that traders and farmers have had difficulty transporting and delivering goods from Benguet and other provinces to Metro Manila who had to stop at several checkpoints before queuing at several trading posts to wait for buyers. Eighty percent of the country’s highland vegetable requirements, such as carrot, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, and lettuce, come from Benguet.

 The Philippine Association of Meat Processors, Inc. (PAMPI) has earlier warned of possible shortage in meat products by mid-April because quarantine restrictions impeded the delivery of raw materials to manufacturing plants.

 Poultry farmers have also been finding it difficult to supply chicken to Metro Manila and some parts of Luzon due to roadblocks and personnel restrictions that have affected their deliveries and supply chains, which could trigger supply shortage in a months’ time. This, despite orders from the national government to allow food deliveries through checkpoints.

The lawmaker said the national government should have guidelines for members of the Philippine National Police stationed at the checkpoints to follow. These guidelines should be in coordination with the local government units (LGUs) so they can synchronize their acts together to ensure the unimpeded transport of food supply and other food raw materials. He said authorities have to keep the country’s food supply chain alive while making sure that all of the pandemic’s impacts across the food system are being addressed.

Gatchalian expressed fears the delay in the movement of goods would force unscrupulous traders to hoard commodities and manipulate the price in the market, adding that there has already been an increase in the prices of some agricultural products in the past days.

“We should get our acts together. This is a classic example of lack of coordination between the national and local governments even with the local PNP. Iba sinasabi sa taas pero iba ginagawa sa baba”, said Gatchalian in disbelief.

 The lawmaker said we have yet to see the impact on the ground of the newly-launched food resiliency protocol of the Department of Agriculture (DA), which aims to speed up the transport of major agri-fishery commodities from the provinces to Metro Manila and other urban areas in Luzon. This includes the free movement of farmers, fishermen, workers in food processing and manufacturing firms, and food supply chain logistics providers.

“It is high time for the national government to check for themselves the situation on the ground on why there are delays in the delivery of food supplies. We must act at once or see the country plunge into a food crisis. Hihintayin pa ba nating mangyari ito? We can’t afford to have another kind of crisis,” the senator concluded.