BY ADRIAN P. NEMES III
A price freeze on prime and basic commodities was implemented by the Department of Trade and Industry in the cities of Talisay and Victorias in Negros Occidental that were declared under a state of calamity due to severe flooding on New Year’s eve.
This is to ensure that the costs of basic commodities in these areas remain stable, Rommel Amihan, senior trade and industry development specialist of DTI, said.
Amihan said that DTI automatically implements a price freeze on areas under a state of calamity and it will last for 60 days.
He said prices of basic and prime commodities in other areas affected by floods on Jan. 1 and this weekend may also be frozen if the local government units will declare a state of calamity.
Under Republic Act 7581, or the Philippine Price Act of 1992, retailers are not allowed to increase prices of medicines, manufactured foods and agriculture products, in calamity-hit areas.
Also included in the price freeze are essential products, such as coffee, sugar, cooking oil, salt, laundry soap, detergents, firewood, charcoal, and candles.
Hoarding or the undue accumulation of any basic necessity or prime commodity beyond normal inventory levels or unreasonable limitation is also prohibited.
The DTI also warned stores and business owners against any refusal to dispose of, sell, or distribute stocks of any basic necessity or prime commodity to the general public.
It stressed that unjustified taking out of any basic necessity or prime commodity from the channels of production, trade, commerce, and industry is not allowed.
Amihan said their monitoring continues even in areas that have not been declared under a state of calamity but were also affected by floods.
He said that, so far, they have not received any complaints or noticed any untoward increase in the prices of basic goods and commodities.
But he reminded business owners not to take advantage of the situation as they will be penalized.
Criminal charges for illegal acts of price manipulation with a penalty of imprisonment of five to 15 years and a fine of P5,000 to P2 million await those who will be caught illegally increasing the prices of basic and prime commodities in calamity-hit areas.
Another criminal case for violation of the price ceiling, with a maximum penalty of one to 10 years imprisonment or a fine of P5,000 to P1 million may also be filed against violators.*