Is gov’t ready for looming massive food shortage?
A widespread protracted food shortage is almost as deadly as COVID-19 itself. It will induce violence and anarchy, not only in the streets but also at our very homes. It is unpredictable—food riots, malls stormed, perhaps martial law, etc. It can even disrupt the quarantine and induce more infection. In Metro Manila, Cebu, and Davao, the rich and poor are intertwined.We saw this happen in Tacloban during Supertyphoon “Yolanda” when SM was attacked. The police were helpless. If it happens in Metro Manila, it will be a hundredfold. We are not so far from that situation.
Several trucks of rice were not allowed to enter Metro Manila at SLEx. That was quickly corrected. Canned meat producers are complaining their raw materials are being held at Customs. Their stocks are good only for a few days. That has not been corrected as of this writing. The situation is the same for the sardines industry. Canned goods are critical when fresh food disappears.
Food security for both rich and poor must be a priority without disrupting strict quarantine. We have to constantly correct ourselves and change strategies.
Right now, hunger stalks the poor who cannot work. They cannot even move. We are lucky to have cars and have money for groceries. This is a powder keg situation which is critical and needs to be addressed ASAP without disrupting quarantine. Arming security is not a good solution. Sharing with the poor is better. We can perhaps give food or money, if quarantine permits, to a “food-
money center” per squatter area near our homes, arranged by local government units. We can perhaps pool our donated food and money via a house-to-house campaign through the subdivision administration. Caritas Manila and World Vision have online donation drives for the poor. Google their websites. Donations direct to the poor near your homes may be better.
In a food shortage, the first to suffer are the big cities, because the goods from the provinces either cannot come in due to quarantine, or production has stopped due to the virus itself. We have to plan ahead to avoid this, or else we die of hunger or violence before we die of virus infection. There may be an effort at a massive exodus to the provinces which the quarantine will suppress.
What plans? Set up a food security council and a proactive food security master plan through the Inter-Agency Task Force. Facilitate imports of essential goods and essential farm inputs such as fertilizers, etc. Protect and support our farmers using disaster funds. Prioritize the flow of food to big cities (partly being done) by air, land, and sea. This should be done without disrupting quarantine, which should still be the top priority.
Perhaps Mr. Duterte is informed, but at what depth? We must help him with creative strategies, especially officials from government and nongovernment organizations who have access to him.
BERNIE V. LOPEZ,
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