By Genalyn Kabiling
A price freeze of all basic necessities will be strictly implemented and enforced for the next 60 days or until May 15 following the declaration of a state of calamity in the country over the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) threat.
The government intends to deploy teams to intensify the monitoring and enforcement to curb any overpricing/profiteering, hoarding, and cartel in the markets and pursue charges against violators of the country’s price law.
The latest price freeze on basic necessities under a state of calamity was contained in a joint memorandum circular issued by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Department of Agriculture (DA), and the Department of Health (DOH) on March 18.
“Upon the declaration of a state of public health emergency on 8 March 2020, prices of basic necessities were automatically frozen. Following the declaration of a state of calamity on 16 March 2020, 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 the President,” Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said in a Palace press briefing late Wednesday night.
He said the implementing agencies shall ensure that the price freeze is strictly implemented and enforced.
Among the basic necessities under the price freeze are bread, milk, instant noodles, canned sardines, coffee refill/3-in-1, laundry soap, salt, bottled water, and candles.
“To ensure the adequacy of supply for basic necessities and prime commodities, and the compliance of the mandated price ceiling for the products covered by this issuance, the implementing agencies herein shall create a composite team that will intensify monitoring and enforcement to prevent and control overpricing/profiteering, hoarding and cartel,” Lopez said.
Lopez also encouraged local government units to form their respective teams to help monitor the prices of consumer goods and guard against overpricing and hoarding.
He said the implementing agencies may recommend the imposition of price ceiling on basic necessities at a level other than the prevailing price.
They may also recommend to the President to extend the price freeze on any basic necessity or prime commodity if the coronavirus threat or its effects continue to persist beyond the 60-day period.
The government has also warned that appropriate action will pursued against illegal acts committed in Republic Act No. 7581, the Price Act.
“Without prejudice to the penalties described under the relevant ordinances issued by local government units and other applicable laws, any person or entity found violating the Price Act shall be charged accordingly and shall be meted the prescribed fine ranging between P5,000 and P2 million and imprisonment of not less than five years but not more than 15 years,” Lopez said.
SRP for pork, chicken, fish
Agriculture Secretary William Dar has committed to implement the suggested retail price for certain food products during the calamity period.
“On the part of the Department of Agriculture, we continue to now enhance the implementation of the suggested retail price for nine agriculture and fishery commodities,” he said in the same Palace press briefing.
Based on the February 20 circular of the DA, Dar said the suggested retail price for these food products per kilogram are the following:
Pork (pigue or kasim) – P190/kilo
Chicken (whole, dressed) – P130/kilo
Sugar (raw, brown) – P45/kilo
Sugar (refined) – P50/kilo
Milkfish (cage-cultured) – P162/kilo
Tilapia (pond-cultured/fresh chilled) – P120/kilo
Galunggong (imported) – P130/kilo
Garlic (imported) – P70/kilo
Garlic (local)– P120/kilo
Red onion (fresh) – P95/kilo
“We will continue to enforce the suggested retail price of these basic commodities being part of this joint effort to really freeze the prices of basic commodities,” Dar said.
Dar said the public may report any complaints on prices of food products through DA hotline at 0951-144-3233.
The joint memorandum circular of the three agencies shall be effective immediately and applicable during the period of the state of calamity.
Under the calamity declaration, the President mobilized government agencies and local government units to use resources to address the coronavirus threat while the police and military have been directed to keep peace and order in affected areas.
A separate memorandum was issued by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea directing government agencies and local government units to ensure that price control measures imposed on essential medicines and supplies and selected food items are observed.