Community pantries tell gov’t to ‘do better, step up’ — senators

Published April 19, 2021, 1:24 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Community pantries are sprouting up across the country and for senators, this should prompt the government to step up in its efforts to address the impacts of COVID-19 to Filipinos.

Photos courtesy of Caloocan Young Leaders Initiative/ MANILA BULLETIN)

“Community food pantry is an inspiration born out of desperation. It is a selfless act of people, unwitting they may be, are telling government to do better,” Senator Panfilo Lacson said on Twitter Monday, April 19.

While the community pantries showed that “not all hope is lost”, Senator Grace Poe also said that “it’s a wake up call that government must do more to provide for the people.”

“The private sector has taken it upon themselves yet again to face the needs of the people. First it was mass testing, then it was vaccination, and now our people are finding ways to feed the hungry,” Poe said in a separate statement.

“When will we stop reacting to the needs of the people and start anticipating them?” she told the government.

Senator Risa Hontiveros also lauded the volunteerism and “Bayanihan” attitude amid the pandemic.

“Ngunit sa kabilang banda, ipinapakita rin nito ang malaking kakulangan ng pamahalaan sa pagtugon sa COVID-19 (On the other hand, this shows the big gap in the government’s COVID-19 response). This administration needs to STEP UP,” she pointed out.

Malaki talaga ang kakulangan. Hindi kayang saluhin ng taumbayan ang gobyerno forever (It really is inadequate. The people cannot fill in for the government forever),” she lamented.

Aside from providing cash assistance, Hontiveros said programs like “food banks” should be institutionalized.

Sen. Imee Marcos also echoed the same view, saying: “It also mirrors the lack of government aid.”

“The exclusion of many from the DSWD’s flawed list has caused confusion and disorder. We can only hope that government aid is better organized, expedited, and most of all augmented for families hit by the disease and that have lost their livelihood,” Marcos added.

‘Modern-day Bayanihan’

Other senators, meanwhile, were rather optimistic about the replication of community pantries in several parts of the country.

“This is the Bayanihan spirit of the Filipino in modern times!” Senate President Vicente Sotto III said.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto added: “Community pantries is an expression of our Bayanihan spirit. We are a caring and sharing people. This will be very helpful in assisting families cope with COVID[-19],”

“The community pantry is a symbol that ordinary Filipinos are ready and willing to help our needy kababayans. Ito ay ang pinakamagandang simbolo ng modern day bayanihan na lahat tayo ay may kakayahang tumulong (This is the best example of modern-day Bayanihan that all of us have the capacity to help),” Senator Sherwin Gatchalian agreed.

“We support these community parties and even donate food and materials to sustain it,” he appealed.

The community pantry was recently initiated by Ana Patricia Non, a resident of Quezon City, who set up a bamboo cart with donated food items in Maginhawa Street to help those affected by the pandemic. People give what they can and get only what they need from the makeshift pantry.

Non was quoted in a media interview that she was “tired” of complaining about “inaction”.

Since then, the effort has been replicated in many other areas within and outside of Metro Manila, where poor citizens line up for basic needs such as food, rice and vegetables.

Malacañang had also commended the move, considering it as the “Bayanihan” spirit among Filipinos.