DTI Enforces Price Freeze on Basic Goods

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The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has issued a nationwide price freeze on basic goods, following the declaration of the State of Public Health Emergency due to the rising number of Covid-19 cases in the country. As reported on the agency’s official Facebook page, the policy will be in place for 60 days.

With no adjustments on costs, consumers can expect the same prices on basic necessities under the DTI, including canned fish and other marine products, locally manufactured instant noodles, bottled water, bread, processed milk, coffee, candles, laundry soap, detergent, and salt.

Retail Prices for Medical Supplies

To further prevent price increases amid the outbreak, the department released suggested retail prices for medical supplies. Below is the list of prices, shown on their Facebook page:

  • N95 Masks: P45 (lowest price); P105 (highest price)
  • Disposable Face Mask: P3; P12
  • Ethyl Alcohol 70% Solution – 60 mL: P17.25; P25.50
  • Ethyl Alcohol 70% Solution – 250 mL: P36.75; P41.75
  • Ethyl Alcohol 70% Solution – 500 mL: P61; P74.25
  • Sterile Gloves per pair: P18; P21
  • Sterile Gloves (25 pairs per box): P295; P450
  • Nebulizer: P1495; P3980
  • Neb Kit – Adult: P87; P120
  • Neb Kit – Pedia: P63; P142
  • Oxygen Canula – Adult: P24; P60
  • Oxygen Canula – Pedia: P18.50; P53
  • Oxygen Canula – Neonatal: P24; P50

The department adds in its latest Facebook post that overpricing face masks is an unfair and unconscionable sales act, as it takes advantage of consumers during a crisis. The Consumer Act prohibits this. The Price Act, meanwhile, labels this activity as profiteering, which is likewise punishable.

No to Panic Buying

Following the announcement of the Metro Manila lockdown, which took effect last March 15, some people decided to buy goods in bulk to prepare for the community quarantine. According to GMA News Online, alcohol, canned goods, vegetables, and meat products were sold out in many grocery stores in Quezon City days before the community quarantine took effect. 

The lockdown fears were, however, not only exclusive to Metro Manila residents, as it gripped places outside the capital region. Food and disinfectants in stores in Bulacan, Pangasinan, Pampanga, Davao, and Zamboanga City were likewise sold out.

Because of this, the Palace advised the public to avoid panic buying, and only get what was needed.

Sufficient Supply of Goods

Despite the surge in demand, DTI assured the public that they are closely coordinating with other government offices, suppliers, and retailers of basic goods to make sure that scarcity will not be a problem.

Meeting with manufacturers of basic necessities and prime commodities (BNPC), and alcohol and other disinfectants, DTI discussed how they could work towards ensuring the steady supply of products amid the coronavirus scare.

The manufacturers of basic necessities report that they have enough supply, as the stocks in their warehouses are good for a month, more or less. They said they can manufacture more if the demand increases further. For their part, supermarkets and groceries have remained open to accommodate the demand for household items and basic needs despite the now enhanced community quarantine in Luzon

The National Food Authority (NFA) likewise reported that they have a sufficient supply of rice in the country. Meanwhile, the inventory on retail goods can last up to two months, according to supermarket operators. 

On medicines, Mercury Drug stated that they have a month’s stock in their record. Disinfectants, on the other hand, have enough supply for the coming months, despite the surge in demand. Green Cross Inc. and Philusa Corporation assured the department that they are working doubly hard in terms of production to make sure that they accommodate the public’s needs. They promised not to hike up prices on products as well.

Currently, the DTI has ordered a strict “two bottles of alcohol per transaction” policy in supermarkets and other retail stores. This is to curb hoarding and shortage thereafter, as well as the resale of products at exaggerated costs.

The meeting likewise discussed the punitive measures against businesses that take advantage of the crisis. Those who will be found guilty of committing unlawful acts of price manipulation, such as hoarding or profiteering, will be slapped with a fine ranging from P5,000 up to P2,000,000 and be imprisoned for a period of five to 15 years. DTI appeals to consumers to report illegal activities through the DTI hotline.

As of the latest update, the country has 142 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to Rappler. The death toll stands at 12. On the evening of March 16, President Duterte announced the expansion of the general community quarantine protocol into enhanced community quarantine in hopes of curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Sources: DTI Facebook Page, GMA News Online, DTI Gov, Rappler

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