Malacañang said the emergence of community pantries exemplifies the Filipino bayanihan spirit during trying times.

In a statement on Saturday, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said the initiatives of Filipinos to help their countrymen amid the Covid-19 pandemic is laudable.

The first community pantry was put up by 26-year-old Ana Patricia Non on Maginhawa Street in Diliman, Quezon City.

SHARING IS CARING People queue to get free food from the Maginhawa Community Pantry in Maginhawa Street in Quezon City. PHOTO BY RUY L. MARTINEZ

Other community pantries have since sprung up in the cities of Caloocan and Marikina, the provinces of Laguna, Bulacan and Pampanga and Mindoro Occidental.

Roque said the government needs all the help from the public since it cannot defeat Covid-19 alone.

Malacañang earlier admitted the P1,000 cash aid being doled out to low-income earners in enhanced community quarantine areas is not enough.

Roque said President Rodrigo Duterte has no plan yet to certify as urgent a pending Bayanihan 3 bill that would provide additional cash aid to low-income families and businesses affected by the pandemic.

He said the Palace’s economic team will work with Congress to identify potential sources of funds for Bayanihan 3 without further widening the budget deficit which is expected to reach 8.9 percent this year.

Community pantries may be an encouraging development, but it could also be a “sign of desperation,” Sen. Panfilo Lacson said on Sunday.

“When you realize you cannot rely solely on the government, you band together to find ways to survive,” Lacson said in a radio interview.

“It is good that through the community pantries, we see mutual aid from neighbors and barangay residents. But this is also a sign of desperation. People can no longer rely on the government to help them,” he said.

Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara urged the government and businesses to help the community pantries.

“One small gesture when duplicated by a large number of people will amount to something very meaningful,” Angara said.

“It is encouraging to see more Filipinos demonstrating the bayanihan spirit by putting up community pantries for the benefit of people who are struggling during these very challenging times,” he said in a statement.

He said these small efforts by private citizens could have an even greater impact if the government and businesses will participate.

“We encourage our local government units, the national government and even private businesses who can afford it to replicate and even scale up these community pantries to cater to even more people,” Angara said.

The senator stressed huge budgets are not necessary here because during trying times, any kind of help that will go to those in need is appreciated.

Manufacturers of food products for instance, can set up their own pantries or bring their products to pantries in their areas, he said.

Inspired by Non’s initiative in Quezon City, a community pantry has been put up in Santa Cruz, Occidental Mindoro, by a retired government treasurer.

In a social media post, Noli Leycano said the community pantry he started is expected to deliver food and material aids to the people of Occidental Mindoro through the help and support of his friends.

He called on the people to visit the pantry that opens at 8 a.m.

Leycano welcomed not only food donations but clothes, slippers, shoes, face masks and shields, alcohol and other essentials.

WITH IRE JOE V.C. LAURENTE