DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The imposition of lockdowns in various areas in mainland Mindanao has affected the delivery of food supplies, especially rice, to Tawi-Tawi and other island provinces, Mindanao Development Authority Chairman Emmanuel Piñol said on Wednesday, March 18.
Piñol said Tawi-Tawi Governor Yshmail Sali called him on the phone to seek help in getting enough rice supply to his province.
“With the imposition of lockdowns by the different local government units, the movement of food supplies has been affected, especially the transport of goods to remote areas,” Piñol said.
He said the most vulnerable to the lockdowns were also in Basilan, Sulu, and other small island communities in the area, which depend on the Zamboanga provinces, including Zamboanga City, and Sabah for their supply. (READ: Coronavirus Outbreak | MINDANAO: Provinces, cities, towns on lockdown)
Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, and Sulu, collectively known as the Basulta areas, have a combined population of more than 1.56 million people.
The governments of Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga Sibugay declared lockdowns beginning Tuesday, March 17, while Zamboanga City will be on lockdown starting Friday, March 20. This is to keep the areas off limits to outsiders to prevent the spread of the new virus, which has killed 14 people in the country and affected 187 others as of Tuesday.
Even commercial ferry operations between Zamboanga City and the Basulta areas had been suspended, hampering the flow of goods to the island-provinces from mainland Mindanao.
To address this, Piñol said MinDA had coordinated with the Philippine Air Force and the Philippine Navy to ensure that the “the food needs of the remote areas and isolated islands are provided for.”
He said that the MinDA Executive Director and Undersecretary Janet Lopoz was tasked to look after the needs and requirements of the different agriculture and fisheries sectors of Mindanao.
“Usec Lopoz started coordinating with the PAF yesterday for the transport of the biologics and veterinary supplies for the poultry and livestock sectors,” Piñol added.
He said MinDA also initiated a monitoring system to “determine the sufficiency of food and other critical household items, especially in the island-provinces.” – Rappler.com