Agriculture Secretary William Dar assured that the “poorest of the poor” among farmers and fishermen will receive financial support from the national government during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) period.

In a briefing on Wednesday, Dar said farmers and fishermen living in areas that will be placed under ECQ from August 6 to 20 will benefit from the financial subsidy that the national government is currently planning to distribute during this period. It is not clear, however, if the Department of Agriculture (DA) will also initiate its own relief efforts during this period.

“In the ECQ areas, for all the affected [farmers and fishermen], there is an ayuda [financial support] that has been approved and I think that is about P11 billion. The poorest of the poor [including farmers and fishermen] will benefit from that,” Dar said.

For his part, Agriculture Undersecretary Ariel Cayanan assured the free flow of food and agricultural products during the imposition of ECQ in the National Capital Region (NCR).

He also said that there is enough food in the market and that there is no need to do panic buying during this period.

Cayanan’s assurance came as the national fishers’ group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) warned against movement restrictions of agricultural and fishery products during the two-week ECQ, saying hampering basic food products on control points will lead to economic and food crisis.

In a statement, the fishers’ group urged the DA to closely coordinate with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to issue “clear directives” exempting agri-fishery products from strict border control points.

“In the past, border restrictions impeded the movement of agri-fishery products from one place to another. It primarily affected small fishers and farmers who were unable to transport their produce to major fish ports and markets in central towns. Moreover, this strict measure fuels inflation of basic food products that are detrimental to poor consumers who are already battered by economic devastation caused by the pandemic,” Fernando Hicap, national chairperson of PAMALAKAYA, said in a statement.

“Deliveries of food products should be unhampered or it will lead to another crisis after another. Apart from medical response, it should also be considered that food is essential in time of a public health crisis. Strengthening agricultural and fisheries production can assure steady and affordable supply of foods in the market,” he added.

PAMALAKAYA also reiterated its call for the immediate passage of the House Bill 9192 seeking P15, 000 subsidy for fishers and farmers intended for production and livelihood expenses.

Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) also made the same call last week, following the recent heavy rains that different parts of the country experienced last week.

Source: Manila Bulletin (