Nationwide price freeze in effect; criminal charges await profiteers

Published March 12, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin


Price freeze on goods are in effect nationwide following the declaration of state of public heath emergency as government moves to fight the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

In addition, Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez said DTI is intensifying monitoring and enforcement efforts to ensure the reasonableness of prices and sufficiency of supply of goods in the market.

This includes the basic necessities as price freeze is in effect throughout the country following the declaration of State of Public Health Emergency.

During the price freeze, prices of basic goods are frozen at their prevailing prices for 60 days which means that no price movement is allowed within this period.

Likewise, Lopez announced that criminal charges await profiteers and hoarders of goods and medical devices taking undue advantage of the developing COVID-19 situation in the country.

“DTI will file criminal charges on overpricing and hoarding of medical devices and products like alcohol, medicines, masks of N-88, N-95, other similar face masks, alcohol/sanitizers, and medical devices,” Lopez said.

According to Lopez, President Duterte has agreed with its recommendation to issue of an Executive Order for easier procedure of filing of cases and imposition of stiffer penalties for profiteering. The EO is expected to be signed as soon as possible.

Under the proposal, the EO will arm the DTI together with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Philippine National Police (PNP), and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) with visitorial powers to address the issue on prices and supply of medical products.

Under the proposal, DTI can deputize NBI and PNP for police support.
“This is an extra warning for online sellers for overpricing and hoarding,” he said.

The EO will also cover online selling of masks and/or medical devices including alcohol, sanitizers, and the like for strict monitoring.

“Profiteering and hoarding will be dealt with,” said Lopez, who is not among the Cabinet Secretaries who went on self-quarantine as precautionary measure after an exposure to a potential virus carrier.

Likewise, selling of fake medical devices will also be strictly disallowed and dealt with; including nebulizers, sanitizers, alcohol, and the like.

Ruth Castelo, DTI undersecretary for consumer welfare group, said the proposed will simplify procedure and provide stiffer penalty to violators.

Castelo explained that profiteering and hoarding are stipulated under the Price Act, but the proposed EO would make procedures easier to implement and impose stiffer penalties against violators.

Demand for alcohol hand sanitizers face masks are rising due to the rapid increase in confirmed cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the country.