Governor Melchor Diclas upon the recommendation of the Provincial Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19 issued Executive Order 2020-054 lifting the clustering of municipalities and scheduling the delivery of vegetables to the La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Post (LTVTP) and the Benguet Agri-Pinoy Trading Center (BAPTC) and the Nueva Vizcaya Agricultural Terminal (NVAT).
The order now alows entry of all vehicles in all checkpoints without following the earlier scheme. But drivers and helpers are mandated to abide by the safety protocols and assume full responsibility of their undisposed produce.
The clustering scheme was pursued during the community quarantine period to decongest the trading centers at LTVTP and BAPTC and to observe social distancing to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. The delivery to the NVAT was also included later on.
Mayors Ruben Tinda-an of Buguias, Raymundo Sarac of Atok and Cesar Molitas of Kibungan supported the lifting of the scheme upon consultation with stakeholders in their respective areas for free enterprise.
Buguias produces 50 percent of the province’s vegetable produce and losses have been partly attributed to the clustering scheme.
Supervising Agriculturist Delinia Juan said 80 percent of the province’s vegetable produce are marketed to Metro Manila. With the controlled movement, it has a big impact to the highland vegetable industry.
The impact on losses was experienced when Metro Manila was placed under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) from August 3 to August 18. The latest complaints were the prices of cabbage varieties which were at their lowest during the first two weeks of August, said Juan.
Diclas said the provincial government will ready the Benguet Sports Complex with the expected influx of vegetable truckers to deliver vegetables in the trading posts.
Not all the mayors though agree to the lifting the scheme. La Trinidad Mayor Romeo Salda said the market is not yet normal. There are unsold vegetables stocked in the trading areas which at the end of the day, it is the LGU that has to dispose them. He asked that this unsold produce be brought back by the respective drivers and helpers from their point of origin. He also suggested that the respective local governments coordinate with the Kadiwa program of the Department of Agriculture for purchasing in their area to decongest the trading centers.
Kapangan Mayor Manny Fermin and Tublay Mayor Armando Lauro are also for the clustering scheme primarily for the safety and protection of the health of the farmers and stakeholders.
Tuba, Itogon, and Sablan are not so much affected with the clustering. Tuba’s products are not negotiated in any of the trading areas but are sold directly to Baguio City.
The clustered municipalities-mode of delivery gathered favorable feedback in its earlier implementation such that vegetable prices were regulated and traffic of vegetable trucks and other modes of vegetable transport was minimized. (JDP/SCA-PIA-CAR, Benguet)
By Susan C. Aro