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DTI says price freeze covers virtual vendors, individual sellers

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THE DEPARTMENT of Trade and Industry (DTI) said virtual vendors and individual sellers are included in the 60-day price freeze imposed by the government.

DTI and the Agriculture and Health departments on Wednesday signed a joint memorandum circular (JMC) reinforcing the price freeze on goods after the country was placed under a state of calamity.

“The JMC further enhances our existing measures for ensuring sellers’ compliance with the price freeze of basic goods. The Circular does not distinguish between an individual seller and a business entity, or if they are operating in either physical or virtual stores,” DTI Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said in a statement on Friday.

“We made it very clear that as long as you are selling any basic good to the public, you must strictly abide by the price freeze.”

The prices of basic necessities are frozen from March 16 to May 15, after President Rodrigo R. Duterte declared a six-month state of calamity on March 16 in response to the new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The Price Act, or Republic Act No. 7581, allows for the prices of basic necessities to be frozen at prevailing prices for 60 days or until lifted by the president when there is a declaration of a state of emergency or calamity.

According to the JMC, persons and entities that violate the price freeze may face fines between P5,000 to P2 million, and imprisonment of five to 15 years.

The goods covered include rice, corn, cooking oil, fresh, dried and other marine products, fresh eggs, fresh pork, beef and poultry meat, fresh milk, fresh vegetables, root crops, sugar, and fresh fruits.

Essential drugs, medical devices, firewood, charcoal, household LPG, and kerosene are also covered.

Mr. Lopez said the implementing agencies intensified their monitoring and enforcement powers by creating composite teams to prevent overpricing, profiteering, hoarding, and cartels.

The implementing agencies may recommend to the president the imposition of a price ceiling on any basic necessity should the effects of COVID-19 persist beyond the 60-day period, the JMC said.

An initial price freeze was put into place after a declaration of public health emergency on March 8.

DTI is also attempting to limit the number of people outside as they offer guidelines on manufacturing operations and supply transportation amid the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon.

Mr. Lopez asked food and medical supply manufacturers that have one to two months of finished goods to stop operations and help keep workers in home quarantine.

In a mobile message to reporters on Friday, Mr. Lopez said all cargo may continue to pass through Metro Manila checkpoints, clarifying an earlier statement encouraging those transporting non-food and non-essential products to stay home.

San Miguel Corp. (SMC), in a social media post on Friday, said that it has enough food products.

SMC said its facilities and employees can produce 1.96 million kilograms (kg) of fresh meat, 524,000 kg of processed meat, and 2.11 million kg of flour and baked goods per day. — Jenina P. Ibañez

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