DAVAO CITY – Community pantry organizers questioned the city government’s latest order that suggests they do house-to-house delivery of food aid to avoid the spread of the coronavirus, as they cite logistic issues and ask the government to address the people’s hunger in the pandemic.
On Monday, May 24, Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio issued Executive Order 31 that suspends government’s public gatherings or what they call face-to-face non-essential activities as it was identified as a spreader for COVID-19. The order also included community pantries.
But community pantry organizers said they do not have enough logistics and resources to do the house-house delivery of their food aid.
“Regarding the suggestion to house-to-house delivery, this is the government’s task, not the pantry’s. We will deliver food packs to puroks and barangays but will not do house-to-house,” Malu Abella of Matina Community Pantry said in a text message sent to Davao Today.
The Matina Community Pantry, the biggest organized community pantry in Davao City where nearly a thousand people are served on a daily basis, has already decided to proceed on an off-site distribution to serve six other communities in Indangan, Matina Aplaya, Bucana, Baganihan, Malamba and Ponce Street before the executive order was released.
For the organizers of Sobrecarey Community Pantry the suggestion of a house-to-house donation drive requires more personnel and budget that most pantries don’t have. This will also defeat the essence of the community’s Bayanihan spirit if they strictly follow the health protocol set by the authorities.
“We respect the City Government’s position, but we remain committed to doing our part as private citizens to help address food hunger among our people however humble our undertaking. We will continue to implement health protocols as we have always done. We look for innovative ways to ensure that the needy are helped.”
Lack of consultation
One of the pantry organizers who requested not to disclose her name pointed out that the city government would have at least initiated a dialogue first with pantry organizers before imposing the executive order.
“Pero unta dialogue before maghimo og imposing na EO. Lahi lahi ang resources kada community pantry. Naay differences pud sa pag organize. So dapat to sabton unta, (But they could have had a dialogue before imposing the EO. Every community pantry have different resources, different methods of organizing. So they should understand us)” she said.
She added that with the new executive order may force some pantries to stop operation due to limited resources which will also affect the community they serve.
She point out that organizers have been aware of the protocols of social distancing and are implementing them in their pantry sites.
Prior to the new executive order, the mayor had said no guidelines will be laid down for community pantries, and advised organizers to observe health protocols and to coordinate with the police and barangay councils to ensure health measures are followed.
Hungry and Desperate
The community pantry is a nationwide phenomenon as individuals and organizations set up their respective food aid in their community in response to the economic crisis brought by the pandemic.
For that, pantry organizers here said the city government should look at the long lines that come to them and think of giving real alternatives.
“Many people are too hungry and desperately need food aid. The community pantries may not be sustainable, true, but offer instant relief to those in need. The community pantries may not be sustainable, true, but offer instant relief to those in need,” said Abella.
The Sobrecarey Community Pantry also points out that the government should also pay more attention “to where priorities must lie” in allocating its funding. The group which is composed of various workers groups in Davao City said government funds for non-essential projects and agencies should be realigned for aid and wage subsidies.
“That people are queuing in great numbers to community pantries manifest the lack of aid during the pandemic. We believe the city government and national government should allocate more funds so people can get through the pandemic with dignity” said Sobrecarey organizers.