Duterte worried community pantries can be COVID 'superspreader' events

Published May 4, 2021, 4:18 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

President Duterte is not seeking an end to the operations of community pantries despite raising concerns that these might cause the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Malacañang said Tuesday, May 4.

People form a line leading to a community pantry in Sta. Mesa, Manila on April 30, 2021 (Ali Vicoy/Manila Bulletin)

According to Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, the President only wanted organizers of the free food pantries to ensure compliance with safety and health protocols to avoid any coronavirus transmission.

“Hindi naman po sinasabi ni Presidente na itigil ang community pantry (The President is not saying the community pantries must stop),” Roque said during a televised press briefing Tuesday, May 4.

“Ang worry lang po niya, eh iyong mga nababalita na nga po na nagiging superspreaders po itong mga community pantries (His only worry is the reports that community pantries becoming superspreaders),” he added.

Roque renewed his appeal to organizers of community pantries to work with local government officials about their operations.

“Ang pakiusap lang po natin eh makipag-ugnayan po sa lokal na pamahalaan at siguraduhin na may social distancing at tumutupad sa iba pang mga minimum health standards ang mga community pantries (We appeal to them to coordinate with local government units and ensure the community pantries observe social distancing and other minimum health standards),” he said.

In a televised address Monday, May 3, the President urged Filipinos to wait for government aid at their houses rather than risk getting coronavirus infection when lining up for food assistance outside. He was concerned about the “swarming” of people, saying they might contract the illness and spread the virus to their loved ones at home.

Duterte did not mention community pantries in his speech but appeared to be alluding to their operations that attract crowds during the pandemic.

Hundreds of community pantries have been established to provide food aid to people in need during the pandemic. People can donate and get food items as needed in these pantries.

As more people flock to these pantries to get food, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) recently ruled that organizers need not get permits but must coordinate with local government units. Guidelines have also been issued on the operations of these local food banks.