By Genalyn Kabiling
The government will step up efforts to ensure the country’s food supply remains sufficient and affordable amid the extension of the Luzon-wide quarantine, a Palace official announced Tuesday.
According to Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) has endorsed the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) recommendations to boost the country’s food availability and affordability.
The DA recommendations included unhampered movement of food cargoes during the quarantine period, increased local crop and fish production and livestock raising, and strict monitoring of food prices.
“The recommendations of the Department of Agriculture in ensuring food availability and food affordability as presented are hereby approved,” Nograles said during a virtual press conference Tuesday.
To enhance domestic agricultural production and food processing, Nograles said all the agriculture and fishery stakeholders must be considered “front liners” and their movements must remain “unhampered.”
He said the government also intends to improve food adequacy levels through “increased local crop and fish production and livestock and poultry raising.”
The task force has also approved the proposal to sustain budget for agriculture, particularly expanding support for improved agricultural production and productivity.
“In addition to the previously approved budget of P 8.5 billion for the Rice Resiliency Project, the need for additional funding amounting to P 22.5 billion for the Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat (ALPAS) Program or the PLANT, PLANT, PLANT Program of the DA is reiterated,” Nograles said.
He said the task force also endorsed the immediate activation of the Local Price Coordinating Councils with the guidance of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG). The councils, he said, would strictly monitor prices and enforce Suggested Retail Price (SRP) and price freeze for basic necessities and prime commodities.
Ensuring food supply is among the priorities of the government after President Duterte decided to extend the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon until the end of the month. The extension aims to give the government more time to determine the full impact of the quarantine as well as continue to increase the health capacity in Luzon and other areas.
Th President, in his public address Monday night, said the government wants to give aid to the poorest of the poor and possibly the middle-income families to cope with the coronavirus pandemic. Duterte said he was aware that a person becomes “violent” if he has no food for his starving family.
Duterte however that the government has insufficient funds to cover the coronavirus response. Finance Secretary Carlo Dominguez III has already been directed by the President to look for funds to boost the government’s war chest against the deadly coronavirus.