A SUPERMARKET association official said its members need to consider capping individual purchases of rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizers and face masks, in order to stem panic-buying following a rise in domestic cases of coronavirus (Covid-19).
Philippine Amalgamated Supermarkets Association (Pagasa) President Steven T. Cua specifically proposed caps of two bottles of rubbing alcohol per customer.
“I am suggesting to our members to limit their sale of (rubbing) alcohol to two per person because we don’t want everyone running out of it,” Mr. Cua said in a phone interview.
He also proposed to limit sales to individual buyers of sanitary wipes and soap.
Mr. Cua, who is also the president of the Quezon City-based Welcome Supermart chain, noted increased purchases of rubbing alcohol in the past two days.
The Department of Health (DoH) ordered a price freeze on drugs and medical supplies, including ethyl alcohol and N95 disposable face masks on Jan. 31.
Mr. Cua said the sale of other commodities, like canned goods and bathroom tissue, should not yet be restricted.
“It will be a signal [for people to start panic-buying], dahil nagkakaubusan na (because stocks will run out),” he said. “It will be counter-productive.”
“We should give everyone access to soaps, disinfectant sprays, and other cleaning materials,” he added.
In a separate advisory, Mr. Cua told its 48-member association with 383 supermarket branches nationwide to order sufficient supplies of goods, as well as diversify sourcing, including carrying other brands, should their regular suppliers could not be able to meet their demand.
“Let us order enough supplies to assure the buying public that supplies are not about to run out when customers need them,” he said.
“Better to have any brand of rubbing alcohol or face mask or hand sanitizer than none at all to allay the fear of customers that stocks are running out,” he added.
The national government issued a statement Wednesday warning the public to avoid panic-buying.
The President’s Spokesman Salvador S. Panelo said the Palace “appeals to our people to buy only what they need.”
“There are reports of panic-buying in some supermarkets, groceries or pharmacies. This would only result in undue hoarding and price increases,” Mr. Panelo said.
Domestic cases of Covid-19 infection hit 33 as of Tuesday, with some patients having no travel history, stirring fears of local transmission.
“Our officials from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) gave assurances that we have ample stock of essential items,” he said.
Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez told reporters Wednesday that inventories of key goods are ample.
“We advised consumers not to panic buy. So many stocks in the country,” Mr. Lopez told reporters in a mobile message Tuesday.
“Many areas in China (are) getting back to normal so (there is) less pressure on having supply chain disruptions.”
The Department of Agriculture said Tuesday that Metro Manila’s food supply is sufficient in case a lockdown is ordered for the National Capital Region.
Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said that Metro Manila has rice stocks equivalent to five or six months of demand, while other foods will continue to be available as they are harvested in March and April.
The sole domestic manufacturer of face masks, Medtecs International Corp. Ltd., committed to the DTI a weekly supply of 400,000 masks. The Philippine International Trading Corp. is also in talks to order face masks from suppliers in India and Thailand.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte declared a state of public emergency on Sunday, but stopped short of ordering a lockdown for Metro Manila, where most of the cases have emerged. — Adam J. Ang, Jenina P. Ibañez, Gillian M. Cortez