MANILA - Several senators on Monday commended the public for opening community pantries for poor Filipinos, saying the people have no choice but to rely on themselves due to what they say as inefficiencies and lapses of the national government.
Community pantries are small shelves placed in neighborhoods where anyone can either donate or get vegetables, canned goods, and other basic necessities they need to get by during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"While the community pantries showed the good in people, it also highlighted the government’s lack of support for Filipinos," said Sen. Leila de Lima, chair of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development.
"I hope that this recent initiative by the public will prompt the government to step up its COVID-19 response," she said in a statement.
Senators Risa Hontiveros and Panfilo Lacson shared similar views about the surge of support for community pantries in different cities nationwide.
"Community food pantry is an inspiration born out of desperation. It is a selfless act of people, unwitting they may be, are telling government to do better," Lacson tweeted.
"This is also a sign that the government needs to #StepUp. Hindi pwedeng at hindi kayang saluhin ng taumbayan ang gobyerno forever," Hontiveros said in a separate tweet.
(The people should not and cannot salvage the government forever.)
The public was forced to rely on their neighbors as cash aid from the national government has been stuck in red tape, Sen. Imee Marcos said.
"Nagkakagulo pa nga ang marami dahil hindi napasama sa listahan ng DSWD na talagang napakagulo pa rin," Marcos said in a statement.
(Many are in complaining because they are not in the DSWD list.)
"Ang nagsulputang community pantries ang nagpapatunay na buhay na buhay ang 'Bayanihan,' pero sumasalamin din ito sa kawalan ng sapat na ayuda mula sa gobyerno," she said.
(The community pantries prove that the spirit of Bayanihan is alive, but it also mirrors the lack of government support.)
The popularity of community pantries should prompt the government to fix processes within the bureaucracy, Marcos said.
"Sana'y maisaayos, mapabilis at madagdagan ang tulong ng pamahalaan natin sa mga pamilyang tinamaan ng sakit at nawalan ng hanapbuhay," she said.
(I hope the government's aid to families of those who contracted COVID-19 and who lost their livelihood gets fixed, will be delivered quick and will be increased.)
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque disagreed with comments relating the setting up of community pantries to alleged government inefficiencies.
"Tingin natin, itong mga community pantry ay nagpapakita na bayanihan ang umiiral, hindi bangayan. Alam po ninyo, sa panahon ng matinding pandemya, sa panahon ng surge na ito, kinakailangan po talaga ay sama-sama tayong mga Pilipino dahil kung hindi tayo magtutulungan, sino pa ang magtutulungan," he said in news briefing.
(These community pantries show that Bayanihan spirit is alive, and not wrangling. In this time of a pandemic, and now that there is a surge in cases, we Filipinos should really work together, because if we don't help each other, who else will?)
"Itigil na po muna ang pulitika, iyan po ang pakiusap natin. Huwag po sa panahon na nagkakaroon ng ganitong surge. Bayanihan na po muna tayo, huwag bangayan," he added.
(Let's do away with politics, that's our plea. Not this time when a surge is ongoing. Let's do Bayanihan, not political wrangling.)
In February 2021, there were 4.2 million jobless Filipinos, 200,000 more than the number of unemployed workers in January, according to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority.
Malls, airlines, tourism establishments, and small restaurants were among those hit by new policies on leisure and travel to curb the spread of the virus.
The rise of community pantries show that Filipinos are "naturally generous, compassionate, and have the heart for service," Sen. Nancy Binay said.
"We always have this unflinching desire to help whenever extraordinary circumstances call us to respond," she said.
"Community pantries are a testament that hope is not lost. Sharing does not need to have any color or politics."
A Palace official earlier thanked Filipinos who have been donating goods to community pantries, saying the "fight against COVID-19 is a whole of nation fight."