Special food lanes pushed

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    THE Department of Agriculture (DA) is recommending the setting up of special food lanes for vehicles carrying food and commodity items in all 65 entry and exit points in Metro Manila.

    Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the move will speed up the movement of deliveries and ensure the sufficient supply of commodities in the National Capital Region.

    “Quarantine measures will still be observed while ensuring we have enough commodities.

    DA is mobilizing all regional field offices to assure food supply,” Dar said.

    Dar also proposed that local government units identify drop off zones of food items where consumers can buy their food requirements.

    Dar assured that the country still has a comfortable 35-week worth of rice supply which will be further augmented by the dry season harvest starting this month up to April.

    The DA added that total weekly demand of Metro Manila for vegetables and root crops is at 5,000 metric tons (MT) against the weekly supply of up to 17,000 MT from farmers in Northern and Central Luzon.

    For poultry and meat products, Metro Manila consumes a total of 7,934 MT a week, while poultry and livestock raisers can supply up to 11,074 MT a week as consumption of eggs is at 25 million pieces weekly compared to the supply of 42.5 million pieces.

    For fish, estimated weekly requirement of NCR is at 8,000 MT with supply reaching up to 10,264 MT.

    Sen. Risa Hontiveros called for the urgent grant of hazard pay to health workers, government employees, military and police, security personnel, service workers and other ‘frontliners’ in the country’s fight against the COVID-19 outbreak.

    “Our health professionals do not only need face masks and protective wear but also additional take home pay commensurate with the sacrifices they make everyday,” Hontiveros said.

    She said that under the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers, doctors, nurses and other health workers in the public sector whose work exposes them to “danger, occupational risks and perils to life” must receive an additional hazard pay which can be as high as 25 percent of their monthly basic salary, depending on their pay grade.

    Hontiveros said hazard pay must be likewise granted to government employees who ensure that key public services continue to function despite the outbreak, including traffic enforcers, policemen, soldiers, immigration officers, barangay watchmen, office clerks, and other government employees who are directly involved in providing public services.

    The Supreme Court said it “drastically reduc(ed) operations” in all courts nationwide starting Monday. Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta said the work scheme will last until April 15.

    Peralta said only a skeletal staff will remain to act on urgent matters brought before them.

    “All courts, from the Supreme Court down to the first level court during this period, shall maintain the necessary skeletal staff to immediately act on urgent matters brought before them,” Peralta said in Administrative Circular No.31-2020.

    “Accordingly, at least the majority of the justices of the collegiate courts, and one or two judges in the multi-sala stations of the first and second level courts, together with the necessary skeleton-staff which shall be determined by Executive Judges, must be in court or in stand-by at any given day during this period to immediately act on these urgent matters,” the circular read.

    Peralta said all night courts shall also be suspended.

    “There shall be no works in all courts, court offices, division, sections, and units, including in the Supreme Court, during this period, except in courts and court offices concerned with the resolution of urgent matters and cases, the payment of salaries in the judiciary, the release of the 2019 Bar examinations results, the medical services, and the security of the courts,” it added.

    Likewise, the SC suspended all court hearings nationwide during the period, except on urgent matters such as but not limited to “petitions, motions and pleadings in relation to bail and habeas corpus, promulgation of judgments on acquittals, reliefs for those who may be arrested and detained during the period and other related actions that may be filed in relation to measures at the local or national level to address the declared health emergency.”