MANILA – Malacañang does not see the emergence of community pantries in the country as a condemnation of the government’s efforts to provide aid to families severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a virtual press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the community pantries are the representation of “the best in the Filipino character.”
“The community pantry represents the best in the Filipino. I don’t think anyone can claim to be a founder of that. I think this is a spontaneous movement amongst Filipinos. It’s part of our psyche to help one another kapag meron talagang panahon ng pangangailangan (especially during times of need). I don’t see that as a condemnation of government. It simply shows the best in us during the worst of times,” he said.
Roque said the community pantries show that the Filipino bayanihan (teamwork) spirit is alive.
“Saludo po tayo sa lahat ng Pilipino. Talaga naman pong nagpapakita na (We salute all Filipinos. This really shows that) the Filipino can and will prevail lalo na kung matindi ang paghamon (especially amid great challenges),” he said.
He disagreed with critics saying that community pantries started popping up as the result of an “absent” government amid a prevailing health crisis.
“Sa panahon ng matinding pandemya, sa panahon ng surge na ito, kinakailangan po talaga e sama-sama tayong mga Pilipino dahil kung hindi tayo magtutulungan, sino pa magtutulungan? Tigil na po muna ang pulitika. ‘Yan po ang pakiusap natin…Bayanihan po muna tayo huwag bangayan (At the time of a pandemic, at the time of this surge, we need to join hands because if we don’t help each other, who will? That is our appeal…Teamwork before disagreement),” he said.
Roque assured that the national and local governments will not intervene in plans to put up more community pantries unless there is a failure to observe quarantine protocols.
“Kung magiging dahilan naman po ‘yan ng kumpul-kumpulan siyempre po yung mga lokal pamahalaan baka kinakailangang maghimasok just to make sure na safe and lahat (If it will become a reason why people are crowding, the local government might need to interfere to make sure everyone is safe),” he said.
In a tweet on Sunday, former Vice President Jejomar Binay earlier said the message behind the rise of community pantries is the desire of Filipinos to look after one another amid an “absent” government.
Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson considered community pantries as a “sign of desperation that people can no longer rely on government” while Senator Grace Poe described them as a “wake up call” for the government to do more to address people’s needs.
Community pantries have sprouted Metro Manila after a small business owner in Quezon City set up a community pantry containing donated food and other essentials amid the rising cases of Covid-19.
Sorry over slow ‘ayuda’
Meanwhile, Roque acknowledged the government’s slow distribution of cash aid to families in areas recently under a two-week enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and vowed to do better.
“Patuloy naman po tayo namimigay ng ating ayuda (We continue to provide aid) and more aid is forthcoming,” he said.
To date, Roque said only PHP4 billion of the PHP23 billion allocated for the program has been distributed.
He apologized for the slow distribution, noting that the government was just being careful not to spread Covid-19 in communities.
“Humihingi po tayo ng paumanhin dahil talagang medyo may kabagalan. Sa panahon po kasi ng pandemiya, hindi natin maiiwasan na talagang mag-ingat (We would like to apologize because the distribution is really slow. We cannot help but be extra careful during this time of a pandemic),” he added.
Roque also pointed out that the government opted not to distribute the cash aid electronically to avoid service fee deductions in the already meager cash assistance.
A total of PHP23 billion was allotted by the government for assistance for residents in the NCR (National Capital Region) Plus area. Composed of Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal, the area was placed under the strictest ECQ from March 29 to April 11.
Each qualified resident may receive cash or in-kind assistance of PHP1,000 each or up to a maximum of PHP4,000 per family. (PNA)