MANILA - Food industry companies can operate at half of their total workforce during the ongoing enhanced community quarantine caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said late Friday.
"Establishments involved in the production, manufacturing, packaging, processing and distribution of food may operate at a maximum of 50 percent of their respective workforces," Nograles said in a public address.
Nograles, spokesperson of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), said the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is authorized to "to approve the increase of workforce temporarily" to meet higher demand for basic food products.
"Provided that in all cases, all establishments shall be subject to strict social distancing requirements," he added.
Nograles said law enforcers and local government units should allow "the unimpeded movement" of food industry workers to and from their workplaces, as long as they have required identification documents.
Nograles reiterated the DTI's call to food industry firms to provide accomodations for their workers in or near their workplaces during the ongoing lockdown.
On March 20, a group of Filipino meat processors appealed to the DTI for help, warning their inventory of processed products has dwindled to only 15 days or less.
Rex Agarrado, spokesperson of Philippine Association of Meat Processors, Inc. (PAMPI), said that this was due to the sudden demand for their products and travel restrictions, following the announcement of the enhanced quarantine in Luzon on March 16.
While authorities allowed unhampered passage of food products and raw ingredients, Agarrado said they are unable to receive raw materials for packaging due to the quarantine, citing difficulties of company shuttle services getting through checkpoints.
The enhanced quarantine, which will be implemented until April 12, 2020, included strict home confinement for citizens with non-essential work based on the inter-agency on coronavirus response, and suspension of public transportation.