By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
Foreign suppliers of medical face masks have responded to the call of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to immediately send stocks as supplies have been depleted.
Meanwhile, the agency has already issued Notice of Violations (NOVs) to 12 stores for profiteering.
DTI Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said companies such as Med Tech have been asked to ship more N 95 from Taiwan and to supply 1.2 million surgical masks from their Bataan facility.
Lopez said that drug stores which temporarily ran out of supply are now assuring the replenishment of the face masks. Private firms are also donating face masks and goods.
Already, the DTI has issued notices of violations to 12 stores out of the 17 monitored for profiteering. The violation carries a penalty of P5,000 to P2 million.
Profiteering occurs when a product is priced 10 percent higher than its prevailing price. These establishments were given 48 hours to explain.
The DTI has also recommended to the Department of Health to set suggested retail prices of P45 to P105 for different brands.
Since Batangas has been placed under a state of calamity, prices of all basic necessities and prime commodities are automatically under price freeze.
They have also asked local suppliers and major drug store chains to ensure that they immediately restock and ensure constant availability of supply in their branches, especially those located in the affected areas.
In the meantime, the drugstores and local suppliers were asked to divert current inventory in their branches and warehouses in non-affected areas to their stores in CALABARZON and Metro Manila while waiting for the arrival of new stocks.
The DTI further clarified that these masks are neither classified as basic nor prime good under the Price Act.
Therefore, these have no Suggested Retail Prices (SRPs) and were never part of the list of products being monitored by the Department of Health (DOH) or any of the implementing agencies of the said law.
For longer term solution, DTI said that the Price Act provides that the National Price Coordinating Council (NPCC) in which the DTI and DOH are part of, can recommend to the President the inclusion of these masks in the list of basic or prime goods.
When approved, the NPCC through the recommendation of the DOH and consultation with relevant stakeholders can set an SRP, if found necessary.
The DTI further said that drug and medical stores have committed to the DTI that they will not increase their prices for N95, surgical, and other similar masks as the country faces the effects of the phreatic eruption of Taal Volcano which happened last Sunday, Jan. 12.
Upon receipt of public reports about the rampant selling of overpriced medical masks in the market, the DTI immediately mobilized monitoring teams in the affected areas of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Quezon, and Metro Manila to monitor the prices and supply of said products, including those goods classified as basic necessities and prime commodities.
Monitoring reports revealed that N95 masks are sold at P120 up to P150 per piece while surgical masks that were priced at P1.00 per piece were sold at P4.00 per piece after the Taal eruption. N95 masks are supposed to be sold for only P35-P40 each.
But these were mostly sold out due to an increase in public demand as ashfall enveloped nearby cities and provinces surrounding Taal.
“While we recognize that the N95, surgical, and other similar masks as medical supplies are under the jurisdiction of the DOH, the DTI readily dispersed its teams to monitor the prices and supply of these masks to assist the DOH and the consumers. As the Health Department, we understand that its utmost priority is ensuring the lives and health safety of those who are affected by the phreatic eruption. Market surveillance and monitoring is the best form of immediate assistance that the DTI can provide. As the President constantly underscores, a whole-of-government approach is highly necessary and called for especially during times of calamities and disasters,” said Lopez.
In an earlier advisory, the DTI reminded the retailers to refrain from unreasonably increasing the prices of N95, surgical, and other similar masks. Prices of manufactured basic and prime goods shall likewise remain unchanged as of the published 30 September 2019 DTI Suggested Retail Price Bulletin.
Those found to have committed profiteering or any form of illegal act will face appropriate administrative and criminal charges and will be dealt with the fullest extent of the law.
Consumers are encouraged to report overpricing and any other illegal act of price manipulation through the One-DTI (1-384) Hotline or send an email to [email protected]