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Communal kitchens feed the hungry during lockdown
Despite attacks, Filipino women strive to help the poor
BY MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Since the pandemic and lockdowns began last year, around 15 million, or 62 percent, of families in the Philippines have been starving. Research group Ibon said that these Filipinos are starving because they don’t have enough money to buy food, especially because of a lack of work.
Much like how Filipinos endure disasters, the poor are most vulnerable and largely left to their own devices during the pandemic. The past year to date shows that they must call for government action to contain the virus and help people. But while waiting for the stingy and slow help from the government, they must activate their survival mode by pooling their resources to help each other. All of this must be done by people amid militaristic community quarantines. And as they say, when it rains and pours, disasters such as typhoons, earthquakes, farm plagues and others have not stopped the communities.
Popular organizations, communities and affected citizens have come together to create communal kitchens, communal provisions and communal gardens during the pandemic. These initiatives received public support, of course, so despite the police harassment, arrests and red markings of volunteers in the kitchen and pantry, the mutual aid initiatives covered even more areas.
Last year, the government finally distributed aid in the restricted Manila area, only after shouts and criticism had grown. But obviously, aid was too little to really help as Filipinos continued to use social media, communal kitchens, pantries and similar efforts to help the hungry and unemployed.
Benefits of mutual aid
Since 2020, various groups have sponsored the Bagsakan program to help farmers and urban communities directly, along with other efforts to break the lockdown restrictions. Bagsakan enabled farmers to connect with consumers and sell their wares at competitive prices, reducing the overpricing of traders.
After the eruption of the Taal volcano, during the COVID-19 pandemic and after typhoons Quinta, Rolly and Ulysses, there are numerous initiatives by people to pool resources and bring them to places that cannot be reached by government aid and aid . There were the Tulong Anakpawis and Bayang Matulungin, who fostered interaction between farmers and urban poor communities to work directly together to put together needed aid packages and food. There was Bayanihan Alay sa Sambayanan (BALSA), a nationally organized multisectoral initiative that was first mobilized 15 years ago to help communities affected by disasters. There is the Lingap Gabriela, the Lingap Kadamay, humanitarian armies of women and urban poor groups.
Here we followed some examples of popular initiatives, the communal kitchens and gardens that have come into being in Metro Manila since the lockdown began. These kitchens have now served hundreds of thousands of warm, nutritious meals to the hungry. But even his volunteers admit that this alone is not enough. An insight into how these communal kitchens work provides inspiration and, at the same time, strong arguments for economic stimulus packages, substantial aid and positive state measures.
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For example, at the start of the pandemic, residents of Sitio San Roque in Quezon City have already made their way through community-led efforts such as Kusinang Bayan (communal kitchens), communal pantries, Tanimang Bayan (urban gardening), COVID-19 Health Response and Eskuwela Maralita. In terms of sustainability, they have engaged in a dialogue with the city’s mayor’s office, which has expressed its willingness to work with the community to develop these programs. But these must still bear concrete fruit.
Farmers and fishermen advocate programs that boost local food production and help farmers and fishermen. They condemned how the government monitored enormous losses in agriculture due to the adoption of neoliberal policies.
“Lie the people who are from DA are the imported Bansa”, (The country is already losing a lot, but prosecutors are constantly thinking about how they could allow more imported goods to be dumped in the country), said KMP Chairman Emeritus Rafael Mariano.
Ayuda needed more than limos
Groups are trying to run communal kitchens and pantries as needed and within the scope of donations, but along with workers and urban poor groups they are running “Kalampagan” campaigns and beating empty pots and pans outside the gates of Congress, since May 17th was resumed.
Last May 15, various groups formed in an online meeting called the Ayuda Network. They are urging Congress and President Rodrigo Duterte to finally approve a new round of social improvements for families affected by the pandemic.
Bayan Muna MP Ferdinand Gaite said Congress had consolidated various “Ayuda Laws”.
Read: Why the “Ayuda for All” calculation has to be brought forward
Various sectors launched what is known as the “Ayuda Network” on May 15 to urge Congress and President Rodrigo Duterte to finally endorse the call for a new round of social improvements for families affected by the pandemic. Bayan Muna MP Ferdinand Gaite said several “Ayuda Laws” have been consolidated and approved by the House of Commons Economic Committee.
The main demands of the new network include a pesos 10,000 grant for Filipino families, a wage subsidy for workers and small businesses, a pesos 15,000 agricultural grant for the agricultural grant, support for health workers, the education sector and migrants.
“The ‘Ayuda Laws’ are much more important than the steps to change the economic provisions of the Charter,” Rep. Gaite,
The provision of cash will boost household spending and have a positive impact on the economy, said Noel Leyco, a former OIC for the Department of Social Welfare and Development and now president of Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila. He distinguished the “Ayuda” from “Limos” or charities and said it was the government’s mandate to provide assistance in the event of disasters and emergencies.
Read: Dutertes #SONA is silent about how to deal with the more deadly COVID-19 variant, workers’ problems
The Ayuda network consists of workers, farmers, unemployed, teachers, students, small business owners, migrants, lawmakers, economists, organizers of community pantrys and other affected groups who are pushing for increased government support for the poor during the pandemic.