• Promote health, don’t scrap the SRP

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    Fake rice, fake noodles, fake money and God knows what other fake items will soon come out. And then came the expired food products poisoning thousands of individuals, mostly children.

    In La Union, for example, DZRH correspondent, Rico Valdez reported about expired relief goods from DSWD being sold half the price of the pack’s original value. Imagine how dangerous these are especially for children.

    Lately, we were alarmed by incidents of food poisoning in the provinces. First, more than 100 grade school pupils were poisoned by expired chewing gum in Pangasinan. Sixteen pupils were likewise poisoned by siopao served by the school canteen of Dualing Elementary School in Aleosan, North Cotabato. And the latest that bothered us all— the durian candy poisoning of more than 2000 individuals in the Caraga region. And then just last week, 9 students of Sumulong National High School were brought to the hospital for stomach pains and nausea after eating macapuno candy.

    These incidents of food poisoning are not new to us. In 2015, 30 elementary pupils of San Jose Elementary School in Mabini, Bohol died and more than a hundred others were hospitalized after eating cassava.

    Unfortunately, many Filipinos still have this pwede pa yan attitude. Blame poverty; people are left with no choice but to eat even expired food, or even food in the garbage which we commonly call pagpag.

    Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority’s Annual Poverty Indicators Survey showed that poverty incidence among Filipino individuals rose to 25.8 percent in the first half of 2014 from the 24.6 percent registered in the first semester of 2013. This increase in the poverty incidence was attributed to 2 factors: rapid rise in food prices and the lingering effect of typhoon Yolanda.

    Yet, despite this increasing poverty incidence, DOJ Office for Competition recommended the removal of the requirement for price hike clearance or the suggested retail price (SRP).

    The concept of SRP was introduced by The Price Act which was enacted pursuant to the 1987 Constitution mandating the state to protect consumers from trade malpractices and from substandard or hazardous products.

    The Price Act seeks to “ensure reasonable prices of prime commodities and basic necessities at all times without denying legitimate businesses a fair return on investment.”

    However, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima wants the suggested retail price (SRP) removed. SRP is the selling price that the Trade and Industry Department recommends that the manufacturer, seller or retailer receive for their goods.

    According to de Lima, “the SRP amounts to undue interference in the market and restricts competition by imposing “de facto price ceilings even during non-emergency situations.” She further said it “discourages manufacturers from freely setting prices according to market dynamics.”

    However, with the kind of business practices we have, it is most likely that prices will shoot up. My statement is not completely baseless. Just look at what happened since the Oil Deregulation Law was implemented in 2006. Prior to its enactment, advocates said removing price controls will promote free competition and will result in lower prices of petroleum products.

    But such is not the case. Oil companies increase prices almost weekly with few incidents of minimal rollbacks despite lower world crude prices and foreign exchange rate.

    So now you ask, will that not happen when SRP is removed?

    DTI is right in saying “absence of SRP could prompt some manufacturers, distributors or retailers to take advantage and increase prices at unreasonable levels.” Well, this is already happening in the rural areas even with existing SRP scheme.

    In Buenavista, Marinduque, for example, canned goods are about P5-P10 higher than the prevailing market price. Even the price of gasoline is higher by about P7 per liter.

    So, how does de Lima propose to address that? By removing price hike clearance? That’s preposterous. SRP helps normalize prices and in a way helps prevent profiteering. It balances retainers’ right to earn and the right of consumers to reasonable prices of goods. By removing SRP, we remove business’ accountability to the public and encourage profiteering instead. We likewise lower the purchasing power of our consumers, worst impact of which will be on those in the poverty line. By removing SRP, we put aside the welfare of our citizens, making the poor, poorer, leaving them no choice but to continue with this “pwede pa yan” attitude just to have something in their stomach.

    You see, the SRP is also important in the in the implementation of R.A. 10611 or the Food Safety Act of 2013. It’s about time we make full use of this 2-year old law. It’s about time we conduct a massive food safety awareness campaign to make sure those in the food business do not put the health of the public at risk.

    Catch me live on weekdays at 6:00-7:30pm over DZRH 666khz.

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