The government was asked to ensure the free flow of food and agricultural products during the imposition of general community quarantine in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
This was to avoid the repeat of food producers’ dilemma over food wastage and income loss, which was caused by the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions imposed early last year.
In a virtual press conference, Asis Perez, convenor of food security advocacy group Tugon Kabuhayan, told reporters on Monday that the government must ensure the smooth transportation of perishable food products into Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
This was after the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases recently issued IATF Resolution No. 104, which placed Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal under GCQ until April 4 amid a surge of COVID-19 cases.
Based on the resolution, only essential travel in and out of the said areas shall be allowed. Public transportation will remain to be operational.
Perez recalled that during the early implementation of quarantine rules last year, some food-producing provinces experienced oversupply of vegetables leading to income loss and food wastage. Unsold vegetables were either donated or fed to farm animals.
“The delays and failures in delivering produce to key population centers like Metro Manila were attributed to the disrupted supply chain caused by stricter quarantine rules,” Perez said.
“Fish and vegetables were spoiled while live hogs and cattle became emaciated as checkpoints and other quarantine protocols, affected the free flow of goods,” he added.
Barring logistical delays, he said enough fish is available in the coming months especially since the three-month closed fishing seasons in the country’s major fishing grounds has been lifted.
To recall, the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority recently reported that 9,506.81 metric tons (MT) has been unloaded at major fish ports from March 1 to 15, of which 5,743.44 MT are marine commodities, 1,480.88 MT are from aquaculture, and 2,282.49 MT are frozen fish products.
“We have enough fish. Producers simply need to ensure that commodities from farms will reach consumers. We can ensure that produce will reach consumers especially those under stricter quarantine rules if the food pass system from last year will be implemented more efficiently and effectively,” Perez said.
Perez, who used to be the head of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), is urging local governments to use fresh vegetables and fish instead of mainly canned goods whenever food supplies are provided in areas under lockdown.
This is a win-win situation since those under localized lockdown will have access to fresh food while farmers, fisherfolk and fish growers can sell their produce, he said.