MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said Filipinos should just wait for government aid instead of going outside of their homes to look for a community pantry, which he said could lead to a spike in COVID-19 infections.
Duterte made the remark in his weekly taped address after suggesting that barangay health workers should be delivering government aid house-to-house to prevent the growth of COVID-19 cases.
"People were swarming. It might not be the first thing that you did with your idea, but from there it generated yung mga ito. Nagkalapit-lapit, nagkalapit-lapit hanggang magtaas na naman," the chief executive said.
Thousands of people have flocked to several community pantries in Metro Manila and other areas, as the pandemic drags on.
A community pantry recently set up by Kapamilya actress Angel Locsin in Barangay Holy Spirit in Quezon City was crowded by hundreds of people despite efforts by organizers to enforce health and safety protocols.
Because of this, Duterte said Filipinos should just wait for government aid distribution from their homes, which he said is safer.
"This is not meant as an insult. Hindi niyo kasi alam. Ngayon, kasi ginawa ninyo, hindi niyo talaga alam... The fact na ginawa ninyo, hindi ninyo alam ang consequences," he said.
(You do not know what you are doing because you are not aware of the consequences.)
"Ang mga tao, matigas kasi ulo ninyo. Ayaw ninyong maniwala. Sinabi na ngang mabuti na nga mag-istambay ka na lang. Alam niyo, hindi ito biro, 'pag tinamaan ka ng COVID, it's [death]" he added.
(People are hard-headed. You don't want to believe us. We told you it's better to stay in your homes. Being infected by COVID-19 is not a joke, it is death.)
He also noted that the government is distributing aid "silently" for the poorest of the poor.
"Ngayong, kayong mga wala talagang makain... maghintay lang kayo and try to communicate with your barangay captain. Ako, nagsabi ako, magbalot kayo ng pagkain, ibibigay ninyo 'yan sa mga tao. Sikreto," he added.
(Those who do not have anything to eat, just wait and communicate with your barangay captain. I told them to pack food and give it to the people in secret.)
Community pantries, made of makeshift shelves or stalls on streets, offer food and other necessities, with anyone free to get what they need, as many lack daily essentials amid the health emergency.
The Philippines last week crossed 1 million COVID-19 cases, the 26th country in the world to do so and the 2nd in Southeast Asia.
Broad restrictions and movement curbs saw the Philippine economy slump 9.5 percent last year, its worst economic contraction on record.
Unemployment rate rose to 8.8 percent in February from 8.7 percent in January, which translates to 4.2 million jobless Filipinos as the pandemic persisted, the Philippine Statistics Authority said.