By Malu Manar
KIDAPAWAN CITY – The city government here will continue next week with its second wave of food rationing to some 43,000 poor households affected by the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), a city official said.
Lawyer Cristopher Cabilen, secretary to the Sangguniang Panglungsod ng Kidapawan, said the council and the Office of the City Mayor reached a consensus in a meeting on Friday that the city government would push through with food rationing, setting aside, for the meantime, the council’s probe on the poor quality of rice that was distributed last week.
The investigation, according to Cabilen, will proceed once the situation normalizes over the crisis brought by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis.
Reports said city officials have already identified the source of bags of rice that were allegedly from old stocks, brownish in color, broken or adulterated, and had weevils and stone grits.
“The ‘unscrupulous’ trader was outside North Cotabato but just very near to the city. The stocks came from that trader,” said a city official who requested anonymity.
Next week, the more than 43,000 poor households will again receive at least six kilos of rice, canned goods, and other food items.
Funds for the food aid came from the P29.1 million earlier approved for release by the Sanggunian.
Also, some P70 million was downloaded by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to the city government for purchase of medical supplies, food aid, and other materials and items necessary in fighting COVID-19.
From the P70-million fund, the city government intends to distribute cash – instead of food items, to beneficiaries. The primary reason is that the city government had difficult time finding local or even sources outside the city for the food relief.
“So, instead of food items, the mayor said he wants to give out cash so the beneficiaries could purchase the kind of food they want to bring to their dining table,” said Cabilen.
But such move, according to Cabilen, has yet to get an approval from the DBM.
“The mayor plans to write a letter addressed to the DBM to ask that the LGU be allowed to distribute cash instead of food items,” he stressed.
Cabilen disclosed the city government could no longer find a single supplier of rice to provide them the needed stocks for their food rationing.
“Lumbayan Trading, one of the biggest rice millers in North Cotabato, has told us they have a hard time supplying us the needed bags of rice. They already lack supplies,” said the lawyer.
At least 20,000 bags of rice are needed to supply to 43,000 families in the city.
Also, manufacturers of canned goods like corned beef, and hotdogs, told the city officials they already lack materials for their packaging. They don’t have enough tin cans and cellophanes needed for their wrapping.
“So what can we do? This is our biggest problem. We have the money but only few suppliers can give us the stuff that we need,” said Cabilen.