THE Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is proposing an executive order (EO) to increase its powers to monitor establishments to deter hoarding and overpricing as the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) outbreak spreads in the Philippines.

Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez told reporters in a mobile message Thursday that President Rodrigo R. Duterte expressed with the proposed order.

Mr. Lopez said the order would give the DTI, the Philippine National Police (PNP), and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) powers to visit establishments to prevent hoarding and profiteering.

“Online selling of masks and/or medical devices including alcohol, sanitizers, and the like will be strictly monitored and profiteering and hoarding will be dealt with,” he said.

He added that the selling of fake medical devices, including nebulizers, sanitizers, and alcohol, will be “strictly disallowed and dealt with.”

DTI said in a statement that the Consumer Act or RA No. 7394 considers overpricing of face masks an unfair and unconscionable sales practice because doing so would take advantage of consumers in a “time of need.” The Consumer Act places administrative sanctions of up to P300,000 and/or imprisonment of up to one year for violators.

The department said the Price Act or RA No. 7581 also considers these practices to constitute profiteering, an offense which entails a fine of up to P2 million and/or imprisonment of up to 15 years.

Mr. Lopez said the DTI is studying raising the penalties for violators.

The DTI said it also met with manufacturers of basic necessities to check on the availability of key goods.

“According to the manufacturers of basic goods, supply is sufficient while regular stocks in their warehouses are good for one month more or less, and they can produce more as the need arises.”

The National Food Authority (NFA) assured the DTI of sufficient rice stocks, while supermarkets said their inventories are good for two months. The supermarkets also committed to a cap of two bottles of rubbing alcohol per transaction.

The Mercury Drug chain said it maintains a month’s worth of medicines, while disinfectant manufacturers committed to maximize production.

The DTI is also working with the Food and Drug Administration to fast-track the issuance of Certificates of Product Registration for imported disinfectant.

“Consumers need not worry as we have enough stocks of basic goods in the market. The DTI is working closely with the manufacturers and retailers to ensure continued flow of supply in the market and reasonableness of prices of basic goods including disinfectants,” Mr. Lopez said. — Jenina P. Ibañez