Only 3 people allowed per food delivery vehicle – Dar
MANILA, Philippines — Though exempted from the lockdown, food vehicles will now be prohibited from carrying more than three people as the government tightens quarantine rules to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar, who also heads the newly formed task force on food security, on Wednesday said the capacity limit was intended to reduce the possibility of contracting the coronavirus among people who delivered food.
“Food vehicles, haulers, delivery vans or trucks must only be occupied by a driver and two helpers,” Dar said in announcing the decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, the temporary government body overseeing the Duterte administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We want an unhampered movement of agricultural products to ensure [adequate] food supply … but we also want to ensure that Filipinos remain healthy,” he added.
Previously, the government set no limits to the number of people that food vehicles could carry.
Dar said the interagency task force originally wanted to limit the number to two—a driver and a helper—but this could impede the unloading of supplies.
Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag), the biggest umbrella organization for agricultural groups in the country, said it supported the task force’s decision but asked for exceptions to the travel ban this harvest season.
Sinag chair Rosendo So cited, for instance, mango farms in Pangasinan and Zambales provinces, which he said were having manpower problems as they were at the peak of the season and were calling on the government to allow laborers to travel in groups to farms to harvest fruit.
“We are OK with three people if they are handling commodities going to Manila, but in the provinces, it would be helpful if more than three people would be allowed on food vehicles to speed up the harvest,” he said.
So denied allegations that food vehicles were being used to smuggle people in and out of Metro Manila, pointing out that identification cards and other documents were required at checkpoints.
Exemption from curfew
Certain industries are also asking for exceptions to lockdown restrictions, citing varying times of operations.
In poultry, for instance, egg harvesting can only be done at night to avoid shrinkage and mortality. In fishing, fishermen go out to sea before dawn.
In both industries, people must be exempted from curfew to be able to do their work.
Dar said discussions with local governments were continuing to allow work in agriculture to proceed to avoid disruptions in food production and distribution.
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