MANILA – Following the declaration of a state of calamity in the Philippines for six months, price freeze on basic commodities will be effective until May 15, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said Wednesday.
The price freeze covers all persons, including those who sell basic goods through the Internet or other media, according to the joint memorandum circular of the DTI, the Department of Agriculture (DA), and the Department of Health (DOH).
“Prices thereof shall not increase in the retail market for any reason or for any purpose for the next 60 days upon its declaration or until May 15, 2020, unless sooner lifted by (President Rodrigo Duterte),” Trade Secretary Lopez said in a Palace press briefing late Wednesday night.
Lopez said the implementing agencies should ensure the strict implementation of the price freeze.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the price freeze was intended to make sure that food and essential goods “remain affordable to all”.
“It is also being done to ensure that no one takes advantage of anyone. Nasa gitna po tayo ng krisis, isang pagsubok na malalampasan natin kung tayo po ay magtutulungan. (We are in the middle of the crisis, a challenge that we can overcome if we help each other),” said Nograles, who was also present at the press conference.
Duterte on March 16 placed the entire Philippines under a state of calamity for a period of six months to allow the government to tap additional funds that will be utilized to address the outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) in the country.
Monitoring of prices
Nograles said the prices of basic necessities are “automatically” frozen after Duterte declared a nationwide state of calamity.
He added the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) directed the DOH, DA, and DTI to continuously monitor and review the prices of basic commodities within their respective jurisdictions and enact price control measures pursuant to Republic Act No. 7581 or the Price Act.
Lopez said the implementing agencies should create a composite team that will intensify monitoring and enforcement of price freeze to prevent and control over pricing, hoarding, and carter.
He said the implementing agencies should likewise ensure that local price coordinating councils are fully mobilized and operational.
“Likewise, during the same period, the implementing agencies may recommend the imposition of a price ceiling on basic necessities at a level other than the prevailing price,” Lopez said.
SRP on agri, fishery products stays
Meanwhile, the DA will continue the implementation of the suggested retail price (SRP) for selected agriculture and fishery products amid the Luzon-wide enforcement of the enhanced community quarantine.
“We continue to now enhance the implementation of the suggested retail price for nine agriculture and fishery commodities,” Agriculture Secretary William Dar said.
Dar said the basic commodities covered are the following food items, with their respective SRP per kilogram: pork at PHP190; chicken (whole, dressed) at PHP130; brown sugar at PHP45; refined sugar PHP50; bangus at PHP162; tilapia at PHP120; galunggong at PHP130; garlic at PHP70 to PHP120; and red onion at PHP95.
Based on DA Administrative Circular No. 01 issued on February 20, the SRP scheme covers Metro Manila markets only.
Dar said the public may report any complaints regarding prices of basic agri-fishery goods at DA”s hotline, 0951-144-3233.
Penalties await profiteers, hoarders of food, goods
Lopez also warned that profiteers and hoarders of food and other goods will face punishment.
He said an individual who violates the Price Act will have to pay a fine of up to PHP2 million and be imprisoned for up to 15 years.
Nograles encouraged the pubic to report those who are engaged in overpricing and hoarding of prime commodities by reaching out to DTI through its consumer hotline 1-384 or e-mail address ConsumerCare@dti.gov.ph.
“Hindi po tayo papayag na pagsamantalahan ang krisis na ito para pagkakitaan ang taumbayan. Walang lamangan dito (We will not allow anyone to take advantage in times of crisis. No one should take advantage of it),” he said.
Apart from the declaration of state of calamity, Duterte also imposed an “enhanced” community quarantine in the country until April 12 to contain the spread of Covid-19.
The Luzon-wide community quarantine limits the public’s movement to accessing basic necessities.
As of Wednesday, the Philippines has 202 confirmed Covid-19 cases. (with reports from Filane Mikee Cervantes/PNA)