Jail term, fine await erring traders

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    With the “buy local” campaign gaining momentum, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) warned the public against erring businessmen who might capitalize on the drive through mislabeling of foreign products and passing them off as made in the Philippines.

    The DTI can crack the whip on these unscrupulous traders through Republic Act No. 7394 or the Consumer Act of the Philippines. Businessmen who will be found guilty of mislabeling their products face imprisonment of up to two years and fine, or both, at the discretion of the court.

    They may likewise be charged with performing deceptive sales acts and practices, punishable with a fine or imprisonment of up to one year or both.

    Under Article 77 of Republic Act No. 7394, the DTI stressed that product labels must include the “Country of Manufacture” if imported.

    The label must also indicate that if a consumer product is manufactured, refilled or repacked under license from the principal.

    Likewise, DTI’s Administrative Order No. 01-08 entitled, “Addenda to the Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act No. 7394” requires all consumer products sold in the Philippines, whether manufactured locally or imported, to indicate, among others, its country of manufacture.

    Based on Bureau of Customs’ Memorandum Order No. 06-2003, the country of origin is where the product “was wholly obtained or where the last substantial transformation took place.”

    The Philippines also follows the ASEAN Common Effective Preferential Tariff Scheme, which states that a product will be considered to have originated from a certain country if at least 40 percent of its content originates from the said country.

    The DTI issued the warning amid concern from consumer groups that some crooked businessmen might take advantage of the “buy local” campaign by mislabeling imported products and selling them as local goods, such as rice, chicken and cement, among others.

    The government recently revived its “buy local” program to help the country’s economy recover from the effects of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and protect the employment of many Filipinos.

    The recently passed Bayanihan To Recover As One Act” or Bayanihan 2 Act has given priority to locally manufactured products in the purchase of around P3 billion worth of medical goods, particularly personal protective equipment.