Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Thursday expressed alarm on the reported violations on the price freeze imposed by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) on food items and other essential products while Luzon and some Visayas and Mindanao provinces are under COVID-19 lockdown.
Sotto noted reports received by his office that some unscrupulous retailers and sellers have hiked the prices of food products such as rice, canned goods and health items amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The DTI had imposed a price freeze on food and essential products as a relief measure for families affected by the enhanced community quarantine and the COVID-19 crisis. It has likewise ordered supermarkets to strictly adhere to suggested retail prices (SRP) it has set on such items.
“Anong nangyari sa price freeze? Sa SRP? Bakit hindi ito nasusunod? Anong ginagawa ng DTI? Bakit hindi nila ito nabantayan?” Sotto asked.
Among others, Sotto cited higher prices of rice, which according to complaints have gone up to as high as P2,100 per cavan from its previous price of P1,800 per 50 kilos/sack. Prices of canned goods, fruits and vegetables have also increased.
These basic commodities shoud be sold based on the selling price before ECQ. Traders and resellers are using the checkpoint and lockdown procedures as excuse to add to the cost when it has nothing to do with transportation or distribution.
“Inaabuso ng mga retailers at sellers ang mamamayan sa panahong dapat ay nagtutulungan tayong lahat para malampasan ang krisis na ito. Hindi ito tama,” Sotto decried.
Sotto urged the DTI to deploy monitoring teams to check compliance to the price freeze and SRP policy of supermarkets, public markets and even sari-sari stores.
He said such teams should do random visits of food stores to determine and sanction erring establishments.
Sotto likewise suggested that the DTI should set-up a special customer hotline during the enhanced community quarantine where consumers can call or send their complaints.
“The DTI should be pro-active. It is important that the public is protected from abusive people during this difficult time. Let us help our people by making sure that prices of basic commodities remain affordable especially now that incomes are at their minimum, if not totally cut,” Sotto said./Stacy Ang