Sweeping amendments to the 28-year old Price Act are being proposed in Congress to include higher fines, expanded list of commodities and inclusion of products sold online.
Undersecretary Ruth Castelo of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said
the agency welcomes the adoption by legislators of its proposal to increase the fine on price manipulation to a minimum of P50,000 and maximum of P3 million from the current P5,000 to P2 million.
Castelo said DTI also pushed for an increase in the fine on violation of the price ceiling to a minimum of P50,000 to P2 million from the current P5,000 to P1 million which was also adopted by Congress.
Both chambers are pushing for the expansion of the list of prime commodities monitored by the DTI with the inclusion of construction materials especially cement, school supplies and uniforms and personal protective equipment (PPE) products like face shields, masks and hand sanitizers.
Aquilino Pimentel III, chairman of the Senate committee on trade, commerce and entrepreneurship, said the body has recommended to put a third classification of products covered by the Price Act: critical goods.
Pimentel said in a television interview the third is a “catch-all classification to list products needed in cases of emergency.
He cited the response to the new coronavirus disease pandemic as a basis for the introduction of this third list.
The Price Act covers only two types of commodities: basic and prime.
Castelo said the DTI is also asking Congress to give stronger powers to implementing agencies in the enforcement of the Price Act noting the boldness of unscrupulous traders to commit profiteering and hoarding.
She said just during this pandemic, the DTI apprehended 500 individuals/entities for Price Act violations.
Wes Gatchalian, chairman of the House committee on trade and industry, said while the proposed Internet Transactions Act is pending, online sellers should be monitored based on the provisions of the Price Act.