NPCC eyes ‘legal actions’ to temper soaring onion prices

Published January 25, 2023, 4:10 PM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

The National Price Coordinating Council (NPCC), which is chaired by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), is looking at “legal actions” among possible solutions to soaring prices of onion in the country to protect consumers and improve supply.

This developed after DTI Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual called a special NPCC meeting Wednesday, Jan. 25, to discuss measures to mitigate the effects of the rising prices of onion in the country.

Following the NPCC meeting, Pascual issued a statement stating that some “legal actions and possible solutions” to soaring prices were discussed extensively. The members of the body came up with inter-agency initiatives that will seek to address the rising prices of onions, the statement added.

Pascual did not elaborate on the “legal actions” mentioned in the statement but told the members of NPCC: ”Given this crucial situation, we are to deliver immediate results to temper the prices of goods and ensure the availability of affordable basic necessities and prime commodities for consumers. We must tap other agencies who can be our allies in this endeavor.”

The national government agencies (NGAs) that attended the NPCC meetings include the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), and National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).

Under Republic Act No. 7581 (RA7581), or the Price Act, as amended, the Department of Agriculture (DA) has jurisdiction over agricultural basic necessities and prime commodities (BNPCs) such as rice, corn, cooking oil, and all agricultural and other marine products, fresh eggs, fresh pork, beef and poultry meat, fresh milk, fresh vegetables, root crops, sugar, fresh fruits, onion, garlic, fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, poultry, swine and cattle feeds, among others.

The DTI, as one of the implementing agencies of the Price Act, has been assisting the DA in monitoring prices of some agricultural products. Upon the publication of the Suggested Retail Price (SRP) for red onions, Secretary Pascual immediately deployed price monitoring teams across the country to check its prices and supply in wet markets and supermarkets. Further, he also led the monitoring taskforce of the Fair Trade Enforcement Bureau (FTEB) during the Ikot Palengke Program.

The Department is committed to assist DA in ensuring the availability of affordable red onions in the market and to stabilize market prices. Through the NPCC, the DTI assures the general public that the government is working hand-in-hand to address this issue, particularly the supply chain from the farmgate to the retailer, or to borrow the words of the President, “from farm to table.”

Meanwhile, the DTI announced that price freeze on basic necessities and prime commodities is in effect in several areas in the country affected by the incessant rains, resulting in the declaration of state of calamities (SOC).

The areas covered in the price freeze are located in the provinces of Palawan; Leyte; Samar and Eastern Samar and Northern Samar; Zamboanga del Norte and Sur; Misamis Oriental and Occidental; Lanao del Norte; Davao del Norte; and Surigao del Norte and Sur.

The effects of the northeast monsoon, shear line, and low-pressure area prompted the declaration of SOC in the affected provinces, municipalities, and barangays, the DTI added.

The DTI has reminded business establishments to comply with the price freeze. Under Republic Act No. 7581 or the Price Act, as amended by RA 10623, prices of basic necessities (BN) are automatically frozen at their prevailing prices for sixty days once a state of calamity is declared in an area.

The price freeze shall be automatically terminated after 60 days unless sooner lifted by the President. To ensure the stability of prices and availability of supply, the DTI monitors products under its jurisdiction such as canned fish, locally manufactured instant noodles, bottled water, bread, processed milk, coffee, candles, laundry soap, detergent, and salt.

The DTI also posts and publishes the lists of prevailing prices of these products in the areas declared under a state of calamity in the DTI website (www.dti.gov.ph).

“Aside from basic necessities, our regional and provincial offices’ monitoring teams also check for the price and supply of other commodities. We urge manufacturers to ensure adequate supply in these areas,” said DTI Consumer Protection Group Undersecretary, Atty. Ruth B. Castelo.

Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture (DA) is in charge of monitoring the price and supply of rice, corn, cooking oil, fresh, dried, and other marine products, fresh eggs, fresh pork, beef and poultry meat, fresh milk, fresh vegetables, root crops, sugar, fresh fruits. On the other hand, the Department of Health (DOH) keeps watch on the price and supply of drugs classified as essential.

According to the Price Act, business establishments found to have violated the price freeze will face a penalty of imprisonment for a period of one year to ten years, or a fine ranging from P5,000.00 to P1,000,000.00, or both, at the discretion of the court.

Consumers are enjoined to report retailers, distributors, and manufacturers that sell basic necessities above their prevailing prices via One-DTI (1-384) Hotline or email, [email protected]

 
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