Davao City halts Matina Community Pantry as crowd breaches COVID-19 distancing rules

SPREAD KINDNESS. A woman leaves with food packs from the Matina Community Pantry established along Quimpo Boulevard in front of SM Ecoland in Davao City on Monday, 19 April 2021. Malu Abella and Nelia Partoza organized the community pantry inspired by Ana Patricia Non of Maginhawa, Quezon City. The organizers prepared 300 food packs along with some other items the beneficiaries can pick from and bring home. MindaNews photo by GREGORIO C. BUENO

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 26 April) – Local authorities halted Monday the Matina Community Pantry here, dispersing the crowd lining up to get free food items for breaching public health standards to combat the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Mayor Sara Duterte said.

In her program aired over Davao City Disaster Radio (DCDR 87.5), Duterte said that health authorities advised the organizers to thoroughly plan how they will continue with the community pantry without violating public health standards, particularly physical distancing, before opening again.

The free-food station here was inspired by the Maginhawa Community Pantry put up at the Teacher’s Village in Quezon City to help families needing food assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Earlier, we dispersed a community pantry. Clearly, the organizers did not know what to do in order that the public minimum public health standards are not violated. We advised them to stop, send the people home and plan tonight how they will go about before opening it again,” she said.

In a statement posted on Facebook at around 2:30 p.m., organizers confirmed they halted the community pantry’s operation upon the recommendation of the local police.

The recommendation was based on the observation that physical distancing, an important health protocol, was difficult to implement, according to the statement.

“We apologized that due to our crowd management limitations, we were only able to serve 350 persons and that many more were (not) served,” it said.

The organizers agreed with the police and barangay officials to put up additional measures to ensure that physical distancing will be properly observed, it added.

“Tomorrow (Tuesday), we promise to do our best for all whom we intend to serve,” it said.

Duterte advised people who are planning to organize community pantries to coordinate with the Davao City Police Office (DCPO) or the Public Safety and Security Command enter (PSSCC) for these agencies to provide crowd control personnel to enforce physical distancing.

“What is most important for community pantries since people are lining up is, number one, there should be distancing, which must be observed not only at the beginning. It must be consistently observed all throughout,” she said.

Duterte said that maintaining physical distancing “can be put in order when there is proper coordination with law enforcers,” emphasizing that “mass gathering is a super spreader of COVID-19.”

“If your community pantry cannot implement minimum public health standards (such as) distancing, it will defeat the purpose of helping the people because most likely this will be the source of (virus) transmission,” she said.

As of April 25, the Department of Health (DOH)-Davao Region reported 57 new cases, bringing the total cases to 23,061, with 867 active, 21,221 recoveries and 973 deaths in the region.

Out of the total, Davao City, which reported the highest COVID-19 cases in Mindanao, tallied 14,369 cases, with 352 active, 13,333 recoveries and 684 deaths. Davao de Oro reported 1,499 cases, Davao del Norte with 3,983, Davao del Sur with 1,566, Davao Occidental with 226 and Davao Oriental with 1,418. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)