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DTI warns traders as masks run scarce


The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) on Monday warned that charges would be filed against business establishments and individuals found selling face masks and basic goods at “unreasonably” high prices.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez issued the warning as reports that drug stores and other establishments have run out of masks, particularly the N95 masks that can filter fine dust.

“The Department of Trade and Industry hereby issues notice to all retailers that we have dispatched teams to monitor and observe the movement of retail prices in the market,” Lopez said.

Residents wear ordinary masks as they flee Agoncillo town, in Batangas province on Monday, January 13, 2020. PHOTO BY J. GERARD SEGUIA

“Those found to have unreasonably increased their prices for gas masks, face masks and other similar items, which act is tantamount to profiteering, shall be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law,” he added.

Lopez said the DTI might suggest to retailers to ration or limit the purchase of masks per customer.

Kabayan party-list Rep. Ron Salo, meanwhile, urged the DTI to immediately impose price caps on basic necessities in Batangas, which has been placed under a state of calamity.

He called on consumers to report to the DTI or police those selling overpriced face masks.

“Profiteers and hoarders of face masks can be charged with prohibited stockpiling, also known as hoarding, and profiteering under our laws, especially the Consumer Act of the Philippines  (Republic Act 7394) and the Price Act of the Philippines (RA 7581),” Salo said.

ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Niña Taduran said some stores were selling masks for ₱200.

A boy sheltering in an evacuation area in Balete, Batangas is seen wearing a surgical mask on Sunday evening, hours after the Taal Volcano eruption. PHOTO BY J. GERARD SEGUIA

As face masks became scarce, a Syrian video blogger (vlogger) distributed N95 masks in Metro Manila for free.

Basel Manadil, known as “The Hungry Syrian Wanderer,” said he bought face masks to give to people who needed them the most.

“Went all around the Metro trying to find N95 masks the whole day as it’s sold out almost everywhere!” Manadil posted on social media. “I bought everything I find [that it’s] pricey to give away for free to anyone and bring to Batangas and Tagaytay myself. It’s so sad to see on my news feed that some people sell or buy all stocks and resell them at a very high price as high as P200-400 each mask!”




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