Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said he expects smoother and unimpeded movement of food and agricultural product in the coming days, particularly in Metro Manila and other high-density metropolitan areas in Luzon, despite tighter quarantine protocols implemented at checkpoints.
“The Department of Agriculture is currently fine tuning our food resiliency protocol, pursuant to the latest announcement by President Rodrigo Duterte, to ensure every Filipino household in the country, which are dependent from outside sources of food, will have access to safe and affordable food,” Secretary Dar said.
Secretary Dar was reacting to initial field reports that some truckers found difficulty in the delivery of agricultural products into the National Capital Region because of traffic buildup at checkpoints.
“Delays and confusion among personnel at checkpoints are expected considering that this is the first day of implementation, which also coincide with the exodus of people going to provinces after the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine,” he said.
To avoid similar incident, Dar said that they are now closely coordinating with the Philippine National Police, Department of Interior and Local Government and LGUs for proper implementation of the food resiliency protocols – including the identification of food lanes and the implementation of quarantine measures for the movement of food and other agricultural commodities.
The DA chief said that only trucks and suppliers with accreditation from the agriculture department could use the proposed special lanes.
“All vehicles carrying essential food commodities, agri-fishery products and inputs bearing government-issued stickers must be allowed passage at quarantine checkpoints through these food lanes,” he said.
As such, truckers, logistics and cargo operators were advised to secure accreditation from their respective DA regional offices to avoid hours-long queues at checkpoints.
For vegetables and rootcrops, “viajeros” can apply for accreditation at the Bureau of Plant Industry, poultry and meat products at the Bureau of Animal Industry, while fish and processed aquaculture products at the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.
For processed meat products, traders can apply for accreditation at the National Meat Inspection Service.
“While, these so-called food lanes would allow unhampered movement of essential food commodities for residents of Metro Manila and the rest of the island of Luzon, quarantine personnel must still require proper documentation at quarantine checkpoints to ensure that food deliveries are safe from diseases,” Dar said.
“All truckers and food logistics operators will also be required to submit documents, including veterinary health certificate for live animal products and certificate of meat inspection for imported meat,” he added.
In addition, Secretary Dar said that farm inputs – including seeds, feed ingredients and fertilizers – would also be allowed access at quarantine checkpoints to ensure continuous production of staple and essential food items during the 30-day period.