MANILA, Philippines — The government must ensure the immediate distribution of cash assistance to affected families, stable supply of rice and due care for senior citizens as the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine due to he coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) menace reached its halfway point, several senators said Wednesday.
Ample rice supply
In a statement, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian underscored the need to ensure enough rice supply in the market for the rest of the year to guarantee price stability of the commodity.
Gatchalian warned that the country’s current rice inventory might stoke inflation because it is below the ideal stock inventory of three months.
Based on his internal calculation, the senator noted that the three-month inventory should have a volume of 2,968,875 metric tons (MT).
But citing Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) data, the lawmaker said the country’s current rice inventory is around 2,375,500 MT which he said is 18 days or 593,875 MT short of the ideal stock inventory.
He called on the Department of Agriculture (DA) to carry out a robust contingency plan for the rest of the year to prevent a possible rice shortage.
“Ngayong nasa gitna tayo ng isang krisis, ang isa sa pinaka importanteng magagawa ng ating gobyerno ay siguruhin na may sapat sa hapag kainan ng bawat pamilyang Pilipino. Pero sa nakikita natin ay mayroon nang nangyayaring rice shortage,” he pointed out.
(Now that we are in the middle of a crisis, one of the most important things that the government can do is to ensure food supply. But we can see that there is rice shortage).
The senator said the government should likewise provide subsidies to local rice farmers to reduce production cost and boost local rice production.
COVID-19 cash aid
Senator Sonny Angara, meanwhile, joined calls for the immediate distribution of cash assistance to families affected by the month-long quarantine.
He said there should be no obstacle to the release of funds to the country’s most vulnerable sectors now with the recent enactment of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act which seeks to provide emergency assistance for those hardest hit by the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Time is of the essence here so we must provide assistance to the poor ASAP. We are fighting against hunger and unrest. We must act now,” Angara said.
Priority: Senior citizens
Senator Grace Poe, meantime stressed that local government units should prioritize the elderly.
She said senior citizens should be extended due assistance so that they need not leave their homes and endure long lines in drug stores and supermarkets which would expose them to possible infection.
“Restrained at home due to the enhanced community quarantine, senior citizens, especially those living on their own, should regularly receive food packs, potable water and essential supplies to sustain them for the quarantine period,” Poe said in a statement.
“If they need medicines, like their maintenance drugs, someone from the barangay should buy these for them. Those who need check-ups or treatment should be given transportation by the local government unit to the hospital or clinic,” she added.
The entire island of Luzon is currently under an enhanced community quarantine amid the rising cases of COVID-19 in the country.
To date, the Philippines has recorded 2,084 COVID-19 cases, 88 of which have died while 49 have already recovered.
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