Food aid in Kidapawan to continue despite lack of supplies

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews / 18 April)  – The city government will continue next week its second wave of food rationing to some 43,000 poor households affected by the enhanced community quarantine to prevent the spresd of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Lawyer Cristopher Cabilen, secretary to the Sangguniang Panglungsod ng Kidapawan, said the City Council and the Office of the City Mayor had reached a consensus on Friday that the city government would push through with its food rationing, setting aside in the meantime, the council’s probe on the poor quality of rice that was distributed last week.

The investigation, according to Cabilen, will proceed after the city is over with the crisis brought about by COVID-19 pandemic or when everything returns to normalcy.

Goods for house-to-house distribution of the City Government of Kidapawan’s relief assistance led by Philippine Red Cross, City Social Welfare and Development Office, and Barangay local government units on April 7, 2020. Beneficiaries are Barangays Manongol, Perez, Meohao, Birada, Mua-an, Ginatilan, Balabag, and Ilomavis. Photo courtesy of the City Government of Kidapawan

Reports said city officials had identified the source of the sacks of rice that allegedly were old stock, brownish in color, broken or adulterated, and had weevils and stone grits.

“The unscrupulous trader was outside North Cotabato but just very near the city. The stocks came from that trader,” said a city official who requested anonymity.

Next week, the city’s 43,000 poor households will again receive at least six kilos of rice, canned goods, and other food items.

Funds for the food aid came from the 29.1 million pesos earlier approved for release by the Sanggunian.

The Department of Budget and Managmeent (DBM) also downloaded some 70 million pesos to the city government for purchase of medical supplies, food aid, and other materials and items necessary in fighting COVID-19.

There’s money but no suppliers

From the 70 million pesos, the city government intends to distribute cash – instead of food items — to beneficiaries.  The primary reason is that the city government has difficult time finding suppliers from within the city and outside, for the food aid as other local government units across Mindanao are also purchasing the same items for food aid.

“So, instead of food items, the mayor said he wants to give out cash so the beneficiaries could purchase the kind of food they want to bring to their dining table,” said Cabilen.

But Cabilen said this proposal has yet to be approved by the DBM.

“The mayor plans to write a letter addressed to the DBM to ask that the city government be allowed to distribute cash instead of food items,” he stressed.

Cabilen disclosed the city government could no longer find a single supplier of rice to provide them the needed stocks for their food rationing.

“Lumbayan Trading, one of the biggest rice millers in North Cotabato, has told us they have a hard time supplying us the needed bags of rice.   They already lack supplies,” said the lawyer.

At least 20,000 sacks of rice are needed to supply 43,000 families in the city.

Also, manufacturers of canned goods like corned beef, and hotdogs, told city officials they lack materials for their packaging.  They don’t have enough tin cans and plastic needed for their wrapping.

“So what can we do? This is our biggest problem.  We have the money but only few suppliers can give us the stuff that we need,” said Cabilen.  (Malu Cadelina-Manar / MindaNews)