Retailers, suppliers commit not to increase prices of N95, surgical and related masks

Retailers, suppliers commit  not to increase prices of N95, surgical and related masks
Customers lining up for masks at Mercury Drug Store in Mandaluyong City Photo File/THEPHILBIZNEWS

By Victoria “NIKE” De Dios

Assuring that they will not take advantage of the consumers and public in the midst of catastrophe, the country’s retailers and suppliers vowed to Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) that they will not increase their prices for N95, surgical, and other similar masks as the country faces the effects of the phreatic eruption of Taal Volcano which happened last Sunday, January 12, 2020.

No less than Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez who initiated the monitoring of prices of those goods classified as basic necessities and prime commodities by sending the teams in the affected areas of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Quezon, and Metro Manila.

In the reports monitored, the N95 masks are sold at PHP 120 up to PHP 150 per piece while surgical masks that were priced at PHP 1.00 per piece were sold at PHP 4.00 per piece after the Taal eruption. These were mostly sold out due to an increase in public demand as ashfall hovered at nearby cities and provinces surrounding Taal.

The Trade Chief said, “While we recognize that the N95, surgical, and other similar masks as medical supplies are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Health (DOH), the DTI readily dispersed its teams to monitor the prices and supply of these masks to assist the DOH and the consumers. As the Health Department, we understand that its utmost priority is ensuring the lives and health safety of those who are affected by the phreatic eruption. Market surveillance and monitoring is the best form of immediate assistance that the DTI can provide. As the President constantly underscores, A whole-of-government approach is highly necessary and called for especially during times of calamities and disasters.”

The DTI further clarifies that these masks are neither classified as basic nor prime good under the Price Act. Therefore, these have no Suggested Retail Prices (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 (NPCC) 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 found 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 reminds 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 30 September 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.

The DTI asks the public to report any overpricing and other illegal act of price manipulation through the One-DTI (1-384) Hotline or send an email to consumercare@dti.gov.ph

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