Free Food Pantries Sprout in Philippines as Aid Delayed
Locally stranded individuals wearing protective masks sit with their belongings in Manila, the Philippines. (Photographer: Geric Cruz/Bloomberg)

Free Food Pantries Sprout in Philippines as Aid Delayed

Dozens of makeshift stalls for food donations have sprouted across the Philippines, as the government said aid for the poor had been delayed weeks after another lockdown.

Only 4 billion pesos ($83 million) of the 23 billion-peso budget for aid have been handed out as distribution was hampered by measures to curb spread of the virus, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said at a virtual briefing Monday.

Amid these delays, some Filipinos are queuing for free food from pantries set up by communities and individuals, replicating one put up by a female resident from Quezon City in the capital. This first “community pantry” however temporarily shut on Tuesday, after the organizer was reportedly questioned by cops and was linked to communists, ABS-CBN reported, but the police chief said in a statement there’s no intention to interfere.

The community pantries show what the public can do “when the government is absent,” former Vice President Jejomar Binay said on Twitter. President Rodrigo Duterte’s government however doesn’t view the community pantries as a “condemnation” of its pandemic response, Roque said. “It simply shows the best in us during the worst of times,” the spokesman said.

Those planning to set up community pantries need a permit from local government, Interior Undersecretary Martin Dino told ABS-CBN News Channel on Tuesday. “These pantries might trigger coronavirus infections,” he said, later clarifying that organizers must coordinate with villages if they need authorization.

The Philippine capital and its surrounds returned to stricter virus control measures late last month as a new surge in cases overwhelmed hospitals. The restrictions may cause the nation to miss its economic growth target this year, and will push at least 100,000 Filipinos into poverty.

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