Interior Secretary Eduardo Año warned all Local Government Units (LGUs) to obey President Rodrigo Duterte’s mandates to enable unhampered flow of food supplies and other essential goods during the lockdown or the “enhanced community quarantine” to help the national government strengthen its measures in fighting the crisis caused by Covid-19 in the country. In a phone interview by Philippine Daily Inquirer with Sec. Año, he said, “We are going to call all these LGUs and if they would still not obey, we are going to issue them show-cause orders. It is clear that all movement of cargo should remain unhampered. We should not be receiving reports like this anymore.”
Año was referring to the reports that some local government officials refuse to let the trucks carrying supplies of food pass through their respective areas even though these kinds of transactions are exempted from the lockdown. Because of this, some areas in Metro Manila have experienced shortages of supply of goods while some also have surge in prices. Meanwhile in other parts of the country, inconsistency has also caused confusion to local officials, leading them to come up with their own protocols and measures.
This exemption protocol was proposed by the Department of Agriculture (DA) to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to make resilient measures for food supplies and to speed up the transport of major agrifishery commodities especially in Metro Manila and parts of Luzon. The protocol was intended for free movement of farmers and workers in food manufacturing companies, including food supply chain logistics providers.
Memos ensure that farming and fishing activities should continue for efficient food production. The activities that the protocol still allows include planting, maintenance, harvesting, milling, drying, packaging, trading, etc. According to Año, “All LGUs are advised to adhere to protocols prescribed by the IATF and concerned national government agencies in ensuring food availability and sufficiency during the COVID-19 crisis”. Therefore, farmers, workers, and other personnel working on agribusiness must be exempted from the lockdown policy as long they are health and following safety measures. This also means that shops and other sources providing these essential goods will remain open during business hours, for as long as they follow the safety health protocols regarding Covid-19.