Empty guts tinder box

Hunger is a lit fuse for civil unrest, disorder, and strife.

Civil wars and revolutions have been historically sparked by empty stomachs.

 The month-long community quarantine has disrupted economic activities – slowed trade and industry, suspended work, froze livelihood, and wiped ut incomers and savings.

With thse dire conditions, can starvation be far behind?   

Thus, we share the concern of Sen. Imee Marcos in warning that disorder and violence may erupt in Metro Manila if dwindling food supplies now felt in marginalized communities are not immediately addressed.

Marcos called on the National Food Authority to open its warehouses stocked with imported rice, the Bureau of Customs to donate container vans of smuggled frozen fish, and officials of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport to release Covid-19 test kits and face masks for immediate distribution in Metro Manila.

"Wag nang patagalin yan! Gawin nating priority ang Metro Manila. Dapat i-distribute na ang mga bigas na 'yan na nabuburo lang sa mga bodega ng NFA. Huwag na nating hintayin pang magutom ang mga kababayan natin na maaring pagsimulan ng kaguluhan," she said.

ive government aid immediately, Marcos explained.

Meanwhile, some P17 billion in idle funds in the Department of Transportation should be realigned to support public utility drivers who have lost their income due to the enhanced community quarantine to combat the spread of Covid-19, according to Sen. Grace Poe.

"By our estimate, there is about P17 billion worth of programs and projects in the 2020 DOTr budget that cannot be implemented due to the pandemic on top of those not yet sunk in the ground from 2019," noted Poe, chair of the Senate committee on public services.

"We might as well realign these funds for the benefit of our transport drivers whose earnings are severely affected due to the enhanced quarantine," she added.

Marcos noted that frozen fish from the Customs bureau can be donated to the Department of Social Welfare and Development for quick distribution in the metropolis.

"Donate na yan. Asap! At kung gustong makatulong ng Department of Agriculture at Bureau of Fisheries na siyang namamahala sa regulasyon ng importasyon ng isda, maging maluwag sila para makatulong sa taongbayan," she said.

Daily wage earners, the self-employed, and rank-and-file workers whose incomes have been affected by government measures to stop the spread of Covid-19 have lost the means to provide for their daily needs and must receive government aid immediately, she pointed out

The lady lawmaker said  Metro Manila mayors with whom she consulted with are ready to designate storage areas for rice coming from the NFA.

"Kawawa talaga ang mga Metro Manila mayors dahil kakarampot lang ang budget nila na nanggagaling sa calamity fund. Paano nila pagkakasyahin ang kakarampot nilang budget sa libu-libong mamamayan na kanilang pakakainin?" Marcos asked.

Frozen fish from the Customs bureau can be donated to the Department of Social Welfare and Development for quick distribution in the metropolis, she added.

"Donate na yan. Asap! At kung gustong makatulong ng Department of Agriculture at Bureau of Fisheries na siyang namamahala sa regulasyon ng importasyon ng isda, maging maluwag sila para makatulong sa taongbayan," Marcos said.

Daily wage earners, the self-employed, and rank-and-file workers whose incomes have been affected by government measures to stop the spread of Covid-19 have lost the means to provide for their daily needs and must rece

In enforcing stricter social distancing measures to curb the rapid spread of the disease, the Office of the President had earlier suspended mass public transportation in the entire Luzon. Several provinces have since implemented similar policies to stem the spread of the virus in their jurisdiction.

There are about 130,000 jeepney drivers and some 65,000 transport network vehicle service drivers nationwide. In Metro Manila alone, there are no less than 13,000 public utility bus drivers and roughly 47,000 motorcycle taxi drivers.

Under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which was signed into law earlier this week, the President is authorized to discontinue programs, projects and activities, and utilize the savings generated to augment items vital in the fight against COVID-19, including amelioration for affected communities.

"Ang pondo na pangtayo dapat ng proyekto ay ipamigay na o ipambili na lang ng pagkain ng mga drayber ng mga pampublikong sasakyan. Surely, no one will contest that the right to food of a PUV driver is more important than some obscure project," said Poe.

She also pointed out that the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Law earmarks 30 percent of its incremental revenues for mitigation measures, including fuel vouchers for franchise holders of public utility jeepneys.

"The budget has ceased to be set in stone. The amount for the fuel vouchers should be repurposed as cash or food assistance in this time of emergency. Dapat gamitin ito bilang pantawid sa walang pasada," said Poe.