LGU execs asked to heed Duterte, ensure passage of essential goods

A House leader on Monday appealed to local chief executives to strictly follow  President Duterte’s order on the unhampered entry and passage of all cargo carrying essential goods to ensure the steady supply of basic commodities in communities covered by the extended Luzon-wide Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ).

Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte reminded chief executives of local government units (LGUs) that  they cannot arbitrarily implement their own rules on checkpoints and that only the Philippine National Police (PNP) can inspect cargoes passing through their respective boundaries.

Villafuerte revealed that even in his home provincd  of Camarines Sur, some mayors and  barangay officials have unduly hampered or delayed the  flow of goods that pass through the checkpoints they had installed as part of containment measures.

“Let us avoid an artificial food shortage. The government has assured us of  enough food and adequate supply of other basic items even with an ECQ in place. But some of our LGUs are becoming the cause of the delay of the arrival of these essential goods because the rules they have set up in their checkpoints  are apparently not aligned with the President’s instructions,” said Villafuerte, a former Camarines Sur governor.

“Our LGUs should be part of the solution, not part of the problem,” said Villafuerte, a member of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee that monitors the implementation of Republic Act (RA) No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

Villafuerte said that over the past weeks, assorted groups—among them the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI), Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. (PAMPI) Broilers Raisers Association (UBRA) and the Philippine Seed Industry Association (PSIA)—have complained about their transport problems that had affected their deliveries.

Even Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar, head of the Joint Task Force Corona Virus Shield, has conceded that some LGUs had come out with “extremely strict” policies regarding the entry of cargo, while Interior Secretary Eduardo Año threatened to issue show-cause orders against LGUs that continue to disobey the President’s order on the free-flow movement of food and nonfood essentials during the ECQ.

In his own gripe, Agriculture Secretary William Dar has pointed to “an inconsistent appreciation of national government issuances, which has affected the movement of both goods and workers in the industry.”

Villafuerte has supported the two-week extension of the ECQ, but proposed a modified lockdown that would let the government rejuvenate the economy by allowing certain businesses to reopen and putting back on track its “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure modernization program.

He said that rebooting “Build, Build, Build” will enable the government to jump-start during to extended ECQ period the economy that had ground to a halt, dislocating poor and low-income families dependent on the “no-work, no-pay’’ arrangement.

The House leader noted that infrastructure investments have the highest multiplier effects on the economy, including the generation of jobs.

Villafuerte was the lead author of the House-approved version of RA 11469, which bestowed special but limited powers upon President Duterte for a period of three months to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic that has sickened over 1.35 million people and killed almost 80,000 as of last week.

He  said that despite the assurances of manufacturers  and food producers of adequate food supply, the lack of stocks in supermarket shelves as a result of the delays encountered by delivery trucks at LGU checkpoints contribute to the anxiety of consumers, who have to stay indoors to help the government contain the spread of Covid-19.

Villafuerte said LGUs should keep in mind that sanctions are in place against local officials who violate the provisions of this law.

Under Section 6 (a)  RA 11469, he said that LGU officials disobeying national government policies or directives in imposing quarantines will be held liable and penalized with imprisonment of 2 months or a fine of not less than P10,000 but not more than P1 million or both, at the discretion of the court. They will also suffer perpetual or temporary absolute  disqualification from office, depending on  his or her case.