MANILA – Quezon City on Saturday issued guidelines on the operation of community pantries within the city to ensure compliance with health and safety protocols, and peace and order.
This followed the death of a senior citizen who lined up for a pantry organized by actress Angel Locsin on Friday, where those hoping to get free food found themselves crowding at the queue. The city government earlier said "we were not advised regarding any plans" for Locsin's pantry.
While a Barangay Permit or Clearance will not be required, QC Mayor Joy Belmonte "strongly urged QCitizens intending to operate a community pantry to submit a written notice to the barangay where the pantry is located, including indicating the person responsible for its operation," read a news release.
Under the memorandum, the pantry organizers and the barangay may coordinate and come up with crowd control measures such as setting a cut-off time for persons in line, limiting the number of persons served in a day or for certain time periods, and using marshals to enforce health protocols and disperse overcrowding.
Pantry staff must wear face masks and face shields and likewise require those lining up to at least wear face masks.
A one-meter distancing among patrons must be enforced, while eating and drinking is prohibited in the vicinity of the community pantry. Those lining up must also be prohibited from unnecessarily touching or handling items on display to avoid the spread of the virus.
Pantry operators are also required to maintain cleanliness in their immediate vicinity.
“They are also responsible for food safety. Food must be fresh or not expired, and no adulterated, spoiled or unsanitary foods shall be distributed,” Belmonte said in her directive.
Organizers are likewise required to follow existing public safety hours by operating only from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Belmonte encouraged pantry operators to adopt a system to mitigate abuse following reports about certain persons taking more than what they need.
“For example, the pantries have the option to impose item limits per person or household, or limit their patrons to bona fide barangay residents,” Belmonte said.
The mayor said law enforcement would only intervene in cases of breach of health and safety protocols.
Undersecretary Martin Diño of the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s barangay affairs underscored the importance of coordinating with the barangay following the death of a senior citizen at Locsin's pantry.
The man, identified as balut vendor Rolando Dela Cruz, 67, had been reportedly in line since 3 a.m. and passed out while waiting for the panty to open around 8 am. He was declared dead on arrival at a nearby hospital.
Locsin has since apologized and vowed to help the bereaved family.
Diño said pantry organizers should anticipate the crowd to swell especially if their initiative has been announced or have gone viral on social media.
He suggested using a system where stubs are issued to a specific number of recipients to avoid crowding.
“Dahil talagang maraming nangangailangan lalong-lalo na pag nai-announce mo 'yan, meron mang stub o wala talagang magpupuntahan at magbabaka-sakali. Kung nandyan ang ating mga barangay tanod tapos meron tayo sa Quezon City na Task Force Disiplina, papauwiin na nating 'yung hindi talaga mabibigya,” he said.
(Since many are in need, even those without stubs will still line up. If our tanods are there and we have people from the Quezon City Task Force Disiplina, those without stubs will be sent home.)
The first community pantry rose on Maginhawa Street in Quezon City and has since inspired a nationwide movement, with people chipping in to help the less fortunate struggling with their daily needs amid the pandemic.