THE government on Thursday vowed to ensure reasonable retail prices, especially in industries with tight competition.
Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez, in response to a letter from the Laban Konsyumer Inc. group, said “DTI will ensure reasonableness in SRP (suggested retail prices), but in industries with tight competition, SRPs will be very competitive…Consumer will have a choice.”
In his March 21 letter to Lopez, former DTI undersecretary Victorio Mario Dimagiba, president of Laban Konsyumer, said that “on behalf of the consumers, we respectfully request Secretary [Lopez] who also acts as Chairman of the NPCC [National Price Coordinating Council] to ensure that prices of basic necessities and prime commodities are adequate and reasonable at all times.”
Dimagiba, citing Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas reports, noted that food inflation had risen, as a result of higher prices of meat, fish, cheese, milk, vegetables, rice, coffee and canned and processed products.
The balance-of-payment deficit in February, the fifth consecutive month of deficit since October 2016, has pushed prices up as businesses continue to use foreign currencies to pay for imported raw materials, he added.
The Price Act, or Republic Act 7581, mandates the NPCC to ensure the steady supply and reasonable prices of basic necessities and prime commodities though implementing agencies such as the DTI and the Department of Agriculture.
Dimagiba pointed to reports from the Sugar Regulatory Administration that retail prices of sugar could still go down to P50 a kilo, and that flour prices, the major raw material for bread and other products like instant noodles, biscuits and cakes, had stayed low out of the mills at P600 to P650 per bag.
Moreover, chicken prices should stay within the range of P120 to P130 per kilo, he said.
“Meantime, cement importation continues to increase due to high infrastructure spending but retail prices of imported cement are at parity with local manufacturers prices, thus consumers do not enjoy the lower prices of imported cement, considering that the local manufacturers are also the major importers of cement,” Dimagiba said.
Dimagiba also warned that the tariff on modified deboned meat and potato would go up to 40 percent in July, which could lead to higher prices of hotdogs, meat and beef loaf and French fries.