THE Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) threatened wet market vendors with closure or price controls if retail prices do not more closely mirror the decline in farmgate prices.
“If prices do not all, then we will start issuing notices of violation,” Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez told reporters Thursday.
“We can even close the stores as a last resort. I don’t want to do it because they are small retailers and buy-and-sell entrepreneurs, but we have to exert the government’s influence on the market. If we don’t get cooperation we may be forced to close stores. But we will observe due process.”
He said a notice of violation will be issued for failure to address issues identified in a show-cause order, which serves as a first warning.
Mr. Lopez said the DTI and the Department of Agriculture have agreed “in principle” that his department will be in charge of market enforcement action.
He said he intends to pressure vendors in order to curb profiteering among middlemen.
Asked how the DTI will identify violators, Mr. Lopez, in a text message, said one standard is sellers charging “20% more than the typical margin.”
To support enforcement efforts, the DTI may also operate its own stores and imposing price controls, as a “last resort.”
Under Republic Act 7581 or the Price Act of 1982, the President, on the recommendation of the DTI, can impose price ceilings on any basic necessity or prime commodity.
Conditions triggering price controls include calamities; emergencies; widespread acts of illegal price manipulation; and “unreasonable” price levels for any basic necessity or prime commodity.
Mr. Lopez said farmgate prices of certain commodities like poultry have been on a downward trend but have not been followed downward by retail prices. — Janina C. Lim