Government assures public of ‘price freeze’ during the quarantine

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By THEPHILBIZNEWS STAFF

To avert the profiteering in the midst of COVID19 pandemic, the government through the Department of Trade and Industry led by Secretary Ramon Lopez and Department of Agriculture headed by Secretary William Dar assured the public that they are working closely with local government units to ensure the proper implementation of the price freeze on basic necessities and prime commodities are strictly held and adhered to.

The two officials made this assurance after they found many sellers in violation of the price freeze, as mandated in the Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) No. 2020-01 issued last 18 March 2020. Secretaries Dar and Lopez went around Farmers Market in Cubao on 26 March 2020 for a price inspection.

Following the tripartite release of the JMC by DA, DTI, and the Department of Health, the prices of all agricultural and manufactured basic goods, essential medicines and medical supplies, were frozen at their prevailing prices for sixty (60) days from the declaration of the State of Calamity on 16 March 2020, unless sooner lifted by the President.

Sec. Lopez explained that the marked-up prices were due to the challenges faced during the first few days of implementation of checkpoints in different LGUs. He assured, however, that this has already been addressed in the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases meetings.

“We are continuously coordinating at the local level, with the help of Interior Secretary Año, to ensure the harmonized implementation of the IATF guidelines on the unhampered movement of cargo. Improvements have been reported since Friday of last week and we expect the continuation of this for the following days,” said the trade chief.

He added, “After talking to sellers and market masters, we have learned that there are suppliers who sell these goods at the current retail price. In effect, sellers are forced to increase the prices to still gain some profit. This is why we are calling on traders and suppliers to sell goods at a reasonable price in consideration to our local sellers.”

Taskforce at work
DA Secretary William Dar (Center) checking the price of canned sardines at Puregold Araneta City, Cubao last March 26. Looking on is Trade Chief Ramon Lopez

Secretary Dar noted that farmgate prices for products such as chicken are already below the cost of production, so suppliers should not sell them at such high prices. To address this, DA coordinated with market masters to provide them a list of suppliers that are providing reasonable prices.

Additionally, Secretary Dar urged city chiefs of public markets to implement the Local Price Coordinating Council mechanism, which allows local enforcement units to strictly ensure the price freeze in their respective areas.

During the inspection of nearby supermarkets, such as Wellcome Farmers Plaza and Puregold Araneta, Secretary Lopez was glad to see that these establishments were in compliance with the price freeze. He and Secretary Dar also observed that these supermarkets had sufficient supply on their shelves.

“With the improvements in the unimpeded movement of cargo, we can also see the improvements in the grocery stocks of essential food and non-food products. That’s why we reiterate our call for people not to panic buy because we see that supplies are slowly being replenished,” Sec. Lopez said.