12 stores accused of profiteering

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    Twelve out of 17 establishments in Bambang, in Sta, Cruz, Manila covered by a price monitoring drive were issued notices of violation (NOVs) for alleged profiteering by jacking up prices of masks and medical supplies, according to Ramon Lopez, secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

    Lopez said a price freeze is also in effect in Batangas which is under a state of calamity. Prices of basic and prime commodities in the province unchanged from their January 13 when Taal Volcano erupted.

    Lopez added the DTI also sought the commitment of suppliers on the availability of masks, including 1.2 million more from a Taiwanese company.

    DTI Undersecretary Ruth Castelo said the 12 companies in Bambang were asked to submit within 48 hours their delivery receipts from their suppliers to determine their acquisition costs which will be compared with their retail prices.

    Castelo said the NOVs could ripen to formal charges of profiteering if the establishments fail to substantiate their prices.

    Profiteering occurs when the price of a certain commodity is jacked up over 10 percent prior to the Taal eruption.

    If found guilty, these establishments face fines of P5,000 to P2 million.

    Castelo also warned these establishments they could face serious charges if they present tampered documents.

    She said aside from the imposition of suggested retail prices (SRP) on N95 masks, the Department of Health (DOH) also ordered a price freeze on emergency medicines and medical supplies in all areas affected by the volcanic eruption.

    Lopez said the agency is talking to masks suppliers to bring their inventories in Visayas and Mindanao to Luzon and for those in Luzon to hike their supplies.

    Lopez said drug stores which temporarily ran out of supply are now assuring replenishment.

    He added companies such as Med Tech will ship more N95 masks from Taiwan. Some 1.2 million surgical masks will be made available by Med Tech from its Bataan facility.

    Included in the SRPs are N95 masks which should range from P45 to P105 and disposable face masks which should range from P1.10 to P8.

    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 per piece were sold at P4 per piece after the Taal eruption.

    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. Market surveillance and monitoring is the best form of immediate assistance that the DTI can provide,” Lopez said.

    The DTI clarified masks are neither classified as basic nor prime good under the Price Act .

    Therefore, these have no SRPs and were never part of the list of products being monitored by the DOH or any of the implementing agencies of the said law.

    However, the Price Act provides that the National Price Coordinating Council 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 necessary.

    Since stocks of the medical masks are depleted, the DTI talked with local suppliers and major drug store chains such as Mercury Drug, Watsons, and Southstar Drug, to ensure that they immediately restock and ensure constant availability of supply in their branches, especially those located in the affected areas.

    At the interim, current inventory in their branches and warehouses in non-affected areas will be distributed to their stores in CALABARZON and Metro Manila while waiting for the arrival of new stocks. Foreign suppliers were also contacted by the DTI to immediately send stocks to the country.

    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 Sept. 30, 2019 DTI Suggested Retail Price Bulletin.

    Those found to have committed profiteering or any form of illegal act will be filed with appropriate administrative and criminal charges and will be dealt with the fullest extent of the law.

    Report overpricing and any other illegal act of price manipulation through the One-DTI (1-384) Hotline or send an email to [email protected] END