By Ellson Quimorio
Local government units (LGUs) should be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur 2nd district Rep. LRay Villafuerte had this to say Monday as he bewailed certain LGUs that have allegedly been restricting the passage of cargoes carrying essential goods in areas covered by the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ).
“Let us avoid an artificial food shortage. The government has assured us of enough food and adequate supply of other basic items even with an ECQ in place. But some of our LGUs are becoming the cause of the delay of the arrival of these essential goods because the rules they have set up in their checkpoints are apparently not aligned with the President’s instructions,” Villafuerte said.
He bared that even in his home province of Camarines Sur, some mayors and barangay officials have unduly hampered or delayed the flow of goods that pass through the checkpoints that they have installed as part of containment measures. The congressman reminded the local chief executives that they cannot arbitrarily implement their own rules on checkpoints and that only the Philippine National Police (PNP) can inspect cargoes passing through their respective boundaries.
Villafuerte said that over the past weeks, different groups including the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI), Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. (PAMPI) Broilers Raisers Association (UBRA), and the Philippine Seed Industry Association (PSIA) have complained about the delays with their deliveries. Even Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar, head of the Joint Task Force Corona Virus Shield, has observed that some LGUs have come out with “extremely strict” policies regarding the entry of cargo.
Meanwhile, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año has threatened to issue show cause orders against LGUs that continue to disobey the President Duterte’s directive for the free-flow of food and nonfood essentials during the ECQ. Agriculture Secretary William Dar has also rued about this “inconsistent appreciation of national government issuances, which has affected the movement of both goods and workers in the industry,” Villafuerte said.
He said that the lack of stocks on supermarket shelves as a result of the delays encountered by delivery trucks at LGU checkpoints contribute to the anxiety of consumers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The former Camarines Sur governor reminded LGUs that there are sanctions in place against local officials who violate the provisions of just-enacted Republic Act (RA) 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.
Under Section 6 (a) of RA 11469, LGU officials disobeying national government policies or directives in imposing quarantines shall be held liable and penalized with imprisonment of two months or a fine of not less than P10,000 but not more than P1 million or both, at the discretion of the court. “They shall also suffer perpetual or temporary disqualification from [public] office, depending on his or her case,” he said.