DA appeals to local executives: Let food workers go to work
MANILA, Philippines–The Department of Agriculture (DA) has urged local government units to allow workers of food-producing companies to go to work to ensure the supply of food in quarantined areas, especially in Metro Manila.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar’s appeal came as members of the Philippine Chamber of Food Manufacturers Inc. (PCFMI) – which includes Monde Nissin Corporation, Universal Robina Corporation, San Miguel Corp., Nestle Philippines Inc., and Nutri-Asia Inc. – announced in a statement released to the Inquirer that there may be gaps in their operations in the next coming weeks.
“At the moment we can assure at least a few weeks to a month’s supply. Succeeding supplies heavily depends on how current issues are handled,” the PCFMI said.
“We did not anticipate this situation so incoming of materials in the next coming weeks can be an issue,” the group added.
The food chamber currently has 100 members, most of which are engaged in providing canned goods and ready-to-eat meals like King Sue Ham & Sausage Co., Monde Nissin Corporation, Century Pacific Food Inc., Commonwealth Foods Inc., and RFM Corporation. Fast-food chain operators like Jollibee Foods Corp. and Golden Arches Development Corporation are also members.
Currently, the supply of manufactured goods and inventories vary depending on the company. The Food Chamber said its member-companies continue to operate but on skeletal crewing, while smaller companies and suppliers of food ingredients and packaging materials operate on a per need basis.
“We appeal to the provincial governors, city and municipal mayors in Luzon, including the Visayas and Mindnao, to allow their respective farmers, fishers and workers in food processing and manufacturing facilities to continue to do their jobs, provided they adhere to the social distancing protocol and follow health and sanitation measures,” Dar said.
Workers include drivers and those involved in the transport and delivery of farm and fishery goods, processed food products, and farm and fishery inputs that include seeds, animal feed and biologics, among others.
Dar pointed out that while the DA is tasked to ensure the smooth production and distribution of agricultural goods nationwide, local government officials and their barangay leaders “are the real food security czars” who must deal directly with industry stakeholders in their respective communities.
The secretary said they have received reports of certain LGUs that made unilateral decisions regarding the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine order. For instance, a mayor prevented workers of a food processing facility to report to work – a move that endangered food supply not only in their locality but the entire Metro Manila.
The food chamber also reported that some city and municipal governments imposed stricter guidelines on food plants such as allowing production operations to continue on condition that plant workers remain inside the factories throughout the month-long quarantine period.
“Some food manufacturers chose to carry on, operate with crewing who will be housed inside their plants until April 13, providing food and sleeping quarters. Some companies with no staff housing provision have no choice but to shut down temporarily. In some areas in Pampanga, production sites were closed as local government denies access of both workers and goods,” the group said.
Under the guidelines issued by the Palace on the Luzon-wide quarantine in March 17, “all manufacturing, retail and service establishments are advised to remain open, but strict social distancing measures are required to be observed by respective managements.”
Private establishments providing basic necessities and such activities related to food and medicine production shall also remain open, like public markets, supermarkets, groceries, convenience stores, hospitals, medical clinics, pharmacies and drugstores, food preparation and delivery services, and water-refilling stations.
Banks, money transfer services, power, energy, water and telecommunications supplies and facilities are also included.
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