By Jovee Marie de la Cruz, April 1, 2020; Business Mirror

The National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) is setting up a network “hubs” to address supply chain concerns and bottlenecks in the supply, distribution and movement of essential goods and services, amid the implementation of an enhanced community quarantine in Luzon, President Duterte said, even as he assured that the country’s food supplies will last up to 75 days.

In an 18-page report dated March 30 to Congress as mandated by the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, President Duterte said these “hubs” would serve as a network where public and private stakeholders can share information to ensure unhindered supply, distribution and movement of goods and services.

To ensure the availability of essential goods, he said the Department of Agriculture (DA) is also coordinating with its Asean trading partners on rice to ensure continuous trading transactions with importers and a possible government to government arrangement of 300,000 metric tons (MT) of rice as contingency.

The President also assured that basic food requirements such as rice, fish, pork, chicken and vegetables are sufficient, with the national rice inventory this quarter enough to last for the next 75 days.

Also, he said the DA has formulated the Food Resiliency Action Plan which includes “KADIWA ni Ani and Kita” by facilitating the movement, trucking, and marketing of food supplies from the provinces to the Metro areas in partnership with local governments and the private sector and the implementation of rice farmers financial assistance program.

Sure Aid Loan Recovery and implementation of Ahon Lahat, Pagkain Sapat Kontra Covid-19, or Plant, Plant, Plant Progam, to increase food sufficiency level in the country are also included in the Food Resiliency Action Plan, said Duterte.

Moreover, he also reported that the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has issued a memorandum to ensure compliance with the Price Act and Consumer Act, especially on automatic price control until May 15, 2020, and provisions against hoarding, panic buying and profiteering.

He said the DTI and the DA have already conducted a joint market inspection to ensure compliance with the mandatory price freeze on all basic necessities. As of March 28, a total of 36 nationwide operations were conducted and led to 59 persons arrested.

The President said the DA, DTI and Department of Health have reactivated the Local Price Coordinating Councils nationwide to monitor and enforce price freeze.

Medical supplies

Also, to ensure that donation, acceptance and distribution of health products from foreign governments, international organization and 12 private companies, individuals and civil-society organizations, the President said the Department of Information and Communications Technology is coordinating with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to create an accessible web site to promote transparency and to assist in the immediate acceptance and distribution of donations intended to address Covid-19.

President Duterte said the Bureau of Customs issued orders providing for online filing of goods declaration, clearance of relief consignments entered during a state of calamity and suspension of seven-day period to lodge goods declarations.

He also said the Government Procurement Policy Board has already adopted a resolution providing efficient, effective and expedient procurement procedures during a State of Public Health Emergency through negotiated procurement regarding the use of emergency procurement to respond to the Covid-19 situation.

The Bayanihan to Heal as One Act authorizes the President to undertake in the most expeditious manner, as exemption from Government Procurement Reform Act.