MANILA – The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) on Tuesday night reiterated that the issuance of food passes is meant to ease the mobility of food and agri-fishery cargoes in quarantine checkpoints and not for other purposes, such as relief missions.
The bureau made the statement following the recent arrest of six members of the Anakpawis Party-list for allegedly violating strict quarantine protocols as it conducted “unauthorized” travel to Norzagaray, Bulacan to bring relief goods over the weekend.
“We would like, however, to emphasize that food passes are only issued to allow vehicles to enter and exit quarantine areas for seamless movement of food and agri-fishery products from the source to the market. Relief goods and other similar interventions are not covered by the DA-issued food pass,” it said, referring to the Department of Agriculture.
The agency also enjoined holders of such passes to “maintain and practice health and quarantine protocols whenever they are in transit and otherwise”.
The BFAR, an attached agency of the DA, confirmed that it issued a food pass to the national fishers group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on April 17 after it was able to comply and submit all required documents.
Pamalakaya national chairperson Fernando Hicap has argued that the group underwent the proper process in applying for the food pass so that the delivery of relief goods to the distressed fishing and farming communities would not be hampered.
Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) spokesperson, Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, said the arrested volunteers violated quarantine rules because they were “Unauthorized Persons Outside of Residence” and they misrepresented a food pass to gain passage through checkpoints.
Malaya noted that a food pass, even if issued by the DA, is not valid for the conduct of relief operations.
“They illegally used a food pass for another purpose when a food pass is for the transport of farm produce from farm to market. In fact, the use of the DILG logo for this purpose is again illegal and will not be tolerated by this department,” he added.
The BFAR said it can revoke the food passes issued if an authorized entity breaches quarantine and other health protocols.
“The bureau is one with the government’s efforts to control the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic and reserves its right to revoke food passes issued to entities who use them for other purposes, which may violate or compromise health and safety measures,” it said.
Charges of violation of Article 151 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), including refusal to observe guidelines on home quarantine and insisting to pass through checkpoints, Executive Order 922 Section 4, and attempted “inciting to sedition” under Article 142 of the RPC were filed before the provincial prosecutor’s office of Malolos City, Bulacan on Monday against Karl Mae San Juan, 29; Marlon Lester Gueta, 26; Roberto Medel, 52; Eribeto Peña Jr., 60; Raymar Guaves, 21; and Tobi Estrada, 22.
The complainants were Lt. Schnieder Garcia, Pat. Marlon Castillo, and Pat. Fernando Estrada of the Norzagaray Municipal Police Station.
Meanwhile, former Anakpawis representative Ariel Casilao is also facing the same charges and a separate complaint about usurpation of authority under Article 177 of the RPC.
Based on the report of the Police Regional Office 3 (Central Luzon), the Anakpawis members were on board a passenger jeepney (ZNH-869) that was stopped at a quarantine control point in Barangay Bigte at about 11 a.m. on Sunday.
The group reportedly failed to show any proof of exemption or authority for their presence in Bulacan, except that they were going to deliver a cargo of relief packs to their members and sympathizers in Kalye 11 in Barangay Bigte.
However, upon visual inspection, the jeepney contained anti-government flyers, printed materials, and tarpaulins with slogans that promote the political ideology of Anakpawis, the electoral wing of the militant Kilusang Mayo Uno and the Kilusang Mangbubukid ng Pilipinas.
The relief packs were promptly released and turned over to officials of Barangay Bigte while the propaganda materials were confiscated as evidence for court proceedings. (PNA)