Metro mayors urge community pantry organizers to coordinate with LGUs

As community pantries continue to pop up in different areas in the National Capital Region, the Metro Manila Council (MMC) urged on Sunday, April 24, their organizers to coordinate first with their local government units (LGUs) to ensure proper observance of health and safety protocols.

The Metro Manila mayors unanimously approved on Friday, April 23, a resolution that underscored the importance of sustaining the downward trend in the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) situation in the National Capital Region (NCR) which is considered as the epicenter of the pandemic.

"While the organizers of community pantries exemplify collective charity and concern for the plight of the underprivileged and are truly worthy of emulation, support, and praise, the primordial minimum public health standards under the prevailing community quarantine must remain paramount," the resolution read.

"The sacrifices endured and gains accumulated during the ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) and MECQ (modified enhanced community quarantine) must not be put to waste by a disregard of the prohibition on mass gatherings, observance of social distancing, and the wearing of face masks and face shields," it added.

Citing reports from the Department of Health, the council said the two-week growth rate of COVID-19 was reduced from 164 percent from February 28 to March 27, to -5 percent from March 21 to April 17.

Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Benhur Abalos, who is also the concurrent chair of the MMC, emphasized the need for advance coordination of initiating a community pantry with LGUs to allow them to set up measures to ensure the observance of physical distancing and other public health protocols.

Abalos added that the adherence of community pantries to the prevailing health guidelines is also "part of the Filipino bayanihan spirit".

"As the community pantries intend to extend assistance to our kababayans, let us be reminded that aside from giving food at this time, one of the noblest kind of help is making sure that they are not at risk of acquiring the virus which, at worst, can cost their lives," Abalos said.

The MMDA chief also reminded minors (below 18 years old) and senior citizens (over 65 years old) to just stay at home, based on the guidelines set by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID).

Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal — collectively known as NCR-plus — are currently under MECQ until April 30. The government previously placed these areas under strict ECQ between March 29 and April 11 amid a renewed surge in COVID-19 cases.

The MMC is set to meet on Sunday to discuss its recommendation on the possible quarantine classification of the capital region for May.

The council, which is composed of the 17 Metro Manila mayors, is the governing and policy-making body of the MMDA.