Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade has ordered domestic shipping lines to provide no less than 12 percent of their vessel’s cargo capacity per voyage for the exclusive accommodation of agricultural and food products and to extend preferential shipping rates on these products.
Tugade issued Department Order (DO) 2020-007 in line with the government’s drive to provide food security for the people amid the threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic, and to mitigate the pandemic’s adverse effects by mobilizing the necessary resources and taking the appropriate response measures.
“At this period when the danger of the pandemic is still very real, the people must be assured that the production and delivery of food and agricultural items will not be hampered or delayed. This is important as many parts of the country remain under quarantine measures where movement is restricted,” Tugade said.
“With this department order, our people will be assured of food supply, as each vessel being operated by a domestic shipping line will be carrying needed food and agricultural products to various destinations in the country,” he added.
Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez lauded the apt and timely response of DOTr, saying that its department order is crucial and complementary to the trade department’s recently issued memorandum on the lifting of purchase limits on basic goods.
“From the very beginning, the stable supply and unhampered movement of all food and non-food cargoes have always been our priority. This is to prevent the unreasonable increase in the prices of goods, especially at this time of the pandemic when sources of income are limited,” said DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez.
Department of Agriculture Assistant Secretary and spokesman Noel Reyes said the move by the DOTr will greatly help consumers by easing up the tight supply of food necessities and stabilize their prices.
“Agriculture Secretary William Dar welcomes this favorable development that puts into flesh the recommendation of the IATF Task Group on Food Security to maintain the unhampered movement of food products from the farms and fishing areas to major consumption centers, particularly in Metro Manila. These include products such as pork from Mindanao, where there is a surplus, that should be shipped regularly to Luzon and Visayas and thus ease up the tight supply and stabilize prices for the benefit of consumers,” Reyes said.
Apart from allocating exclusive space for food and agricultural products, the DO likewise enjoins domestic shipping lines to extend a discount of no less than 40 percent from their published shipping rates for all agricultural and food products shipped on their vessels.
The DO said, however, that domestic shipping companies are not prevented from extending higher discounts for agricultural and food products transported by their vessels.
Tugade has ordered the Maritime Industry Authority to issue the guidelines of the DO within 30 days of its effectivity. He also ordered the Philippine Ports Authority to ensure that domestic shipping companies comply with the department order, and to impose sanctions for noncompliance.
Delay in FFP delivery
The shortage of raw materials and lack of personnel were among the reasons the delivery of Family Food Packs (FFP) has been delayed in some areas in the country, including in the National Capital Region (NCR), during the coronavirus lockdown.
DSWD Secretary Rolando Bautista said the agency has always been ready to provide augmentation support to the local government units (LGUs) once they make such request to assist them in handling emergencies or calamities.
“Sa level po ng DSWD, kung sino ang nagrerequest ayun po yung binibigyan natin at pinaprayoridad,” he said over DZME’s “Kongreso Ngayon, at your Service” program.
During the joint House panel’s probe on the implementation of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) last June 22, Cayetano showed a flow-chart indicating that it took 53 days to deliver 7,000 out of 50,000 promised family food packs in his own district of Taguig-Pateros.
Bautista also admitted that the agency’s lack of personnel caused the delay in the distribution of the food packs to the most affected communities, particularly in the NCR.
He said that while they are distributing the SAP, the repacking of food packs continues at the same time and that’s when the problem of lack of personnel arises.
House Minority Leader and Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr., who was part of the program, asked Bautista to tap the assistance of the LGUs.
Bautista assured Abante that the DSWD is addressing the problem by setting up satellite hubs for their repacking activities, including in Taguig.
“Sinunod po namin ang (We followed the) advice ng (of the) speaker. We designated four satellite hubs as repacking areas. That is what we are doing. There is one in Taguig and others in Caloocan, Manila, but I have to confirm,” he said.
He said that it was the DSWD Field Office-NCR that established the satellite hubs to address the agency’s lack of personnel when it comes to the repacking of relief goods. (With a report from Charissa Luci-Atienza)