By Genalyn Kabiling
Government agencies and local government units (LGUs) have been directed to ensure that price control measures imposed on essential medicines and supplies as well as selected food items are observed.
Malacañang has issued Memorandum Circular No. 77 seeking coordinated government efforts to combat any illegal price adjustment of these consumer goods amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The latest circular was issued after the President declared a state of calamity throughout the country for a period of six months due to the coronavirus threat.
“The ongoing global concern on the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus disease) has increased the demand for essential emergency drugs and medical supplies, and basic food commodities, thereby making these products susceptible to acts of illegal price manipulation,” the circular read.
“There is a need for coordinated measures to promote and protect the health of the Filipino people and ensure the accessibility of the general public to essential commodities until the COVID-19 is stabilized.”
Under the circular, the Palace said the existing price control measures being implemented by the Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Agriculture (DA) shall be “maintained.”
Government agencies and LGUs must “implement and ensure compliance with the issuances of DOH and DA on the prices of essential emergency medicines and supplies and selected agriculture and fishery commodities.”
“All concerned government agencies, offices, and instrumentalities as well as LGUs are directed to strictly implement and ensure compliance with DOH Memorandum Nos. 2020-0058, 2020-0058-A and 2020-0058-B, including all their annexes and amendments, and DA AC (Administrative Circular No. 1 as well as amendments thereto that may be issued hereafter,” it added.
The health department earlier issued the memos that mandate a price freeze of emergency medicines and medical supplies. The agriculture department also issued a circular that imposes “suggested retail prices on basic agricultural and fishery commodities in Metro Manila.”
In the same circular, the Palace directed the Department of Health, Department of Agriculture, and Department of Trade and Industry to continue to monitor and review the prices of basic commodities within their jurisdictions. They are authorized to “enact such price control measures” in line with Section 6 of Republic Act No. 7581, the Price Act.
The Palace noted that under the law, prices of basic necessities shall be frozen at their prevailing prices or placed under automatic price control when an area is declared a state of calamity or placed under emergency.
The Price Act also provides the policy of the State to provide “effective and sufficient protection to consumers against hoarding, profiteering, and cartels with respect to the supply, distribution, marketing, and pricing of goods during the periods of calamity, emergency, and widespread illegal price manipulation.”
The circular, signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on March 17, takes effect immediately.