Online 'pabili' answers lockdown needs, helps displaced drivers; PNP says violates guidelines

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 11 2020 09:48 AM | Updated as of Apr 11 2020 09:49 AM

Motorcycle riders traverse the Ramon Magsaysay Avenue in Sta. Mesa Manila on Friday. Light traffic has been experienced in Metro Manila’s major thoroughfares with the public urged to stay at home as Luzon remains under enhanced community quarantine to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

MANILA – While app-based motorcycle deliveries of food and other basic goods are allowed under the Luzon lockdown due to COVID-19, expectant mom Meg Liggayu opts to have her food cravings and vitamins delivered through a “pabili” service, where orders are made online and goods are delivered in exchange for a fee.

Liggayu is among some 2,000 members of a Facebook group created to cater to the needs of residents of Gatchalian subdivision in Las Piñas, which employs tricycle drivers displaced by the lockdown extended until April 30.

Residents post their orders on the group page and are assigned drivers, who then pick up their orders with a minimum service charge of P50.

“Nakakatulong ako sa ka-barangay ko lalo na't mga tricycle drivers sila and 'yun ang source of income nila, tama lang po 'yung singil nila sa delivery and easy access po kasi mag-post lang ako sa (group) and (after a) few minutes may assigned driver na,” Liggayu told ABS-CBN News.

(I get to help out my neighbors, especially the tricycle drivers whose source of income is this. They charge fairly and it’s easy to access because after I post in the group, a driver will be assigned to me in a few minutes.)

“Advantage rin po since tiga dito 'yung drivers alam nila ‘yung area kung saan makakabili.”

(It’s also an advantage that the drivers are from here so they know where to buy.)

"Pabili" service riders in Gatchalian, Las Piñas wear face masks, sanitize with alcohol, and observe a 1-meter distance from their customers. Tins Sicangco

Drivers who deliver the goods by motorcycle make sure they observe physical distancing, wear masks and gloves, and sanitize with alcohol before and after transacting with a customer, said rider Edmon Dimaculangan.

Only 100 out of 300 tricycle drivers in the area are members of the “pabili” service as some do not own motorcycles, are elderly, and do not know how to navigate social media, Dimaculangan added.

And for those who found a means of living despite a public transport ban under the lockdown, the service has become a lifeline.

“Natutustusan po namin ‘yung pang-araw araw namin. Ang bawat isa sa’min halos wala na din budget,” he said.

(We are able to afford our daily needs. Each of us has almost no money.)

Dimaculangan is among many losing their jobs in the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed 94,000 worldwide, prompting movement restrictions that have shut many businesses, disrupting supply and demand for goods and services. In the Philippines, the virus has claimed 221 lives out of 4,195 cases. Some 140 patients have recovered.

Tins Sicangco, daughter of an official of the villages’ tricycle operators and drivers association or TODA, said she came up with the idea “out of frustration.”

“Last 2 days lang sila nabigyan ng tulong from local government which is 1,000 (each) for 220 members. But before that wala talaga tulong sa mga nawalan ng trabaho tulad nila,” she said Tuesday.

(The local government gave them cash aid only in the past 2 days, which is 1,000 each for 220 members. But before that no assistance was given to displaced workers.)

The national government earlier announced a social amelioration program to provide cash aid of between P5,000 and P8,000 for poor Filipinos affected by loss of livelihood under the lockdown.

Aside from tricycle drivers, the “pabili” service also stimulates local business as vendors in the areas covered are “prioritized to sell,” said Sicangco, herself an entrepreneur.

“Ginawa ‘yung group kasi dito sa subdivision po namin malayo ang palengke, grocery at iba pa, para stay at home 'yung iba,” vendor Cris May Jaramillo added.

(The group was also created because the market, grocery and others are far and so others could stay home.)

'Convenient, safer, faster'

Others in Metro Manila are also offering region-wide “pabili” services with a service fee of P300, such as “Sheryl,” who asked that her real name be withheld.

“I have a good friend who’s a displaced Grab driver and he keeps telling me he’s not earning anything anymore so I wanted to help him... I don't get a single cent, help lang talaga (I just help),” said Sheryl, vice president of a finance and security firm.

"Sometimes not everything you need is delivered to you, you really need to go to the grocery store. So the best thing is a pabili service. Or have someone do your errands for you.”

The “pabili” service is “convenient, safer and faster,” said stay-at-home mom Aying Timbungco, who spends some P300 on average for deliveries.

Pat Dermino, a 51-year-old government employee, said it was safer especially for people like him who are immunocompromised and are more vulnerable to the coronavirus disease.

Both Timbungco and Dermino said the lockdown has greatly changed their lives but welcome its 2-week extension so the virus could be more effectively contained.

“Honestly ang tingin ko kulang ang April 30. Sinabi ng DOH (Department of Health) na hindi pa tayo nagpi-peak so inaasahan pang tumaas ang bilang ng positive cases. Ayaw ko sanang i-lift ang lockdown prematurely,” Timbungco said.

(Honestly, I think the lockdown until April 30 is not enough. The DOH said the pandemic has yet to reach its peak in the country, so positive cases are still expected to rise. I don't want them to lift the lockdown prematurely.)

“I’m already starting to get used to the lockdown. Just always try to improve yourself, to not let good opportunities pass, and to try to think of ways to help other people,” Sheryl added.

Violation of quarantine guidelines

ABS-CBN News has reached out to the Department of Trade and Industry on its policy on "pabili" services that have sprouted because of the lockdown, but it has yet to respond.

The Philippine National Police (PNP), meanwhile, said such services breach lockdown guidelines.

"Ang mga napaulat na nagsulputang mga informal delivery services, tulad umano 'yung sa mga Facebook groups, mga nabibigyan raket na mga displaced Grab o trike drivers ay lahat violation ng quarantine rules," said Police Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac, PNP spokesperson.

(Those reported informal delivery services like Facebook groups that give a racket to displaced Grab or trike drivers, all are violations of quarantine rules.)

Under lockdown regulations, only workers conveying goods through legitimate and duly registered delivery apps and services are exempt from the transport ban.

Banac called on the public not to deal with informal delivery services.

"Paalala sa publiko, huwag makipag-transaksyon sa mga ganitong uri ng serbisyo na hindi awtorisado ng IATF," Banac told ABS-CBN News when reached for comment Saturday.

(Reminder to the public, do not transact with these kinds of services that are not authoritized by the Inter-Agency Task Force [on Emerging Infectious Diseases].)

He said the PNP would continue to strictly enforce quarantine guidelines until April 30 and urged the public to stay at home.

"Sinumang mahuhuling lalabag ay sasampahan ng kaso sa ilalim ng Bayanihan to Heal as One Act," Banac said, referring to the recently passed law on government response to the pandemic.

(Whoever is caught violating guidelines will be charged under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.)

- With a report from Aleta Nieva Nishimori, ABS-CBN News