Food, cargo shipments allowed despite travel restrictions in Metro Manila amid COVID-19 threat – DTI

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 13) — Shipments of food and goods in and out of Metro Manila will remain unchanged even after the region is placed on lockdown, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said Friday.

The government said it wants the private sector to go business as usual despite the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to cancel classes and government work until April 12.

“Stores, restaurants, malls factories, offices, banks are open, (but) just on flexible working arrangements,” Lopez told CNN Philippines in a text message. “Cargoes, food and non-food, are ok to move.”

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Duterte on Thursday night announced several measures to contain the spread of the disease known as COVID-19, which has so far infected 52 people and led to five deaths in the country. These include banning land, domestic air and sea travel to and from the capital.

Jojo Garcia, general manager of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, also told CNN Philippines’ The Source that trade flows will be sustained despite the so-called “community quarantine” in Metro Manila, where most of the COVID-19 cases have been confirmed.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said separately that there’s enough food supply in Metro Manila, as he assured that the flow of goods will be continuous even when the travel restrictions kick in on March 15. 

Dar said rice stocks stored in the warehouses of the National Food Authority are good for at least 80 days. “This will be further augmented by the current harvest this dry season, providing additional stocks for another two or three more months,” he added.

Coupled with sacks maintained by private traders and households, supply is assured for about nine months, according to the DA official. Other basic food items such as pork, chicken, eggs, fish, vegetables, fruits, sugar, and cooking oil are also ample.

Both Dar and Lopez appealed to the public not to resort to panic-buying, as products can be easily replenished by manufacturers. A price freeze on key items such as face masks, alcohol, and food items are also in place.

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Lopez also clarified that employees working for companies based in Metro Manila will be allowed to go in and out of the region despite travel restrictions earlier announced. He said these workers will have to show their IDs, but are encouraged to stay within Metro Manila for one month “so there’s less movement.”

The coronavirus pandemic has also spooked financial markets, causing two consecutive trading halts at the benchmark Philippine Stock Exchange index as shares plunged by more than 10 percent. Stocks closed at an eight-year low of 5,736.27 on Thursday, wiping out ₱933.35 billion in value in a day, the PSE said.