BAGUIO

Domoguen: To keep food products flowing unimpeded during community lockdowns

Mountain Light

I HEARD late yesterday, Saturday, that La Trinidad will be on a lockdown in the next two to three days because two of its citizens were infected with the Covid-19 virus.

The imposed emergency measure temporarily prevents people from entering or leaving La Trinidad town for the duration of the lockdown or until the threat of danger has been neutralized.

Already it creates problems especially on the trading of highland vegetables. The Benguet Agri-Pinoy Trading Center (BAPTC) and the La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Post (LTVTP) will be closed to business. Before I went to bed, I filed a post advising local farmers about the lockdown and some possible alternative actions they can do to market their produce.

Today, I am all set to go about my sacred routine—worship, pray, meditate, and later write an article for my column, Mountain Light at SunStar Baguio.

But the settings for this sacred culture must also deal with worldly conditions and interruptions. In this world, emergencies happen at any time.

I am not at all surprised when Dr. Cameron Odsey called this morning to say that he will be calling an emergency meeting to consider alternative solutions to the problems brought about by the lockdown in La Trinidad.

I am not also surprised if they had a “chat session” with Agriculture Secretary William Dar last night about this concern. Over the past days, Secretary Dar has been rolling out immediate interventions for food production and availability, food accessibility and affordability, and food price stabilization” amidst the Covid-19 crises.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) has “requested for a P31 billion supplemental fund for the expeditious implementation of the Ahon Lahat, Pagkain Sapat Kontra sa Covid-19 or Alpas Covid-19, on top of the department’s existing programs.”

Agriculture Secretary William Dar explained that “the supplemental budget proposal for Alpas Covid-19 is in line with the mandate of the DA to ensure the food-secure Philippines much more in time of the health emergency period.”

Where and when necessary, the good Secretary will leave no stone unturned along the agriculture value chain that will prove to be a hindrance and discourage stakeholders from producing, processing, and moving food products into the nation’s tables on time. The lockdown must not hamper the movement of highland vegetables to their destinations in the nation’s markets. And so, early today, Odsey coordinated with Benguet Governor Melchor Diclas about this concern.

It turns out, Governor Melchor Diclas has already appealed to the farmers through radio and other communication platforms to delay the harvest of their produce for the duration of the lockdown. Meanwhile, trading at the BAPTC and LTVTP will continue today to accommodate farmers who are already on the road and so that traders can stock up their supply for trading to the markets during the lockout period.

The temporary lockdown of La Trinidad town should not discourage farmers who need to transport their produce and can deliver these to the trading areas in Baguio City; Villasis, Pangasinan; San Fernando, La Union; Metro Manila; and other urban areas in Luzon. Direct farmer to trader transactions can be done. Our cities, towns, and barangays must also rise to buy and consume locally produced farm products.

Meanwhile, efforts are also being done to allow the alternate disinfection and operation of the BAPTC and LTVTP and therefore not totally lockout farmers and traders in transacting their business in either of these centers, according to Odsey.

With the lockdown of La Trinidad and Tublay town ruled out as a possible trading area, the Baguio Dairy Farm is now being considered as a temporary vegetable trading area for highland vegetables, he added.

“With this pandemic, there is tightening of global food supply and we know that when there is not enough food, the disorder is probable. While improving our food adequacy level, we should aim for food security. If no action is done, the threat of hunger is as real as the threat of the virus,” Secretary Dar said.

Corollary to this, it is indeed crucial that the transport, delivery, and marketing of food products must not be impeded to encourage productivity and “to ensure affordability and availability of food supply.” To support this, the DA-CAR has made available two-trucks to transport vegetable products of small farmers to the markets, Dr. Odsey said.

The opening and operation of Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita Centers and rolling stores with local government units (LGUs) must be fast-tracked.

In an emergency, Christians and government operatives will pray and worship while they work and support this sacred task to feed, cloth, and keep everybody safe and healthy.

Especially in times like this, the country needs all hands at the deck to help mitigate a multitude of problems arising from the onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic. In the DA, we know the objectives and we must be always on the lookout for problems their solutions to keep food supply flowing to the people.

Meanwhile, as of 4:51 p.m. Sunday, the Office of the Mayor, La Trinidad, Benguet issued a new copy of the Executive Order 18 -- A Series of 2020 amending EO 18 -- A, this time indicating that the BAPTC and LTVTP shall be open for business on March 30-31, 2020.

Salute to all who gave up their Sunday routines to work like it is another ordinary day to keep food products flowing and feed the citizenry.


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