Gatchalian wants price freeze on basic goods in Batangas
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) should impose a price freeze on basic necessities and other commodities, including face masks, in the calamity-stricken province of Batangas, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said.
In an interview with reporters on Tuesday, Gatchalian also said that business permits of stores selling overpriced masks should be revoked and its owners imprisoned.
“Since Batangas has been placed under a state of calamity, the DTI can come in and impose a price freeze on food, basic necessities including medicine,” Gatchalian, speaking in Filipino, told reporters.
“And because this involves a volcanic eruption, I would consider masks as part of medically-related devices,” he added.
Batangas was placed under a state of calamity following the phreatic eruption of Taal Volcano last Sunday, Jan. 12.
“A price freeze should be imposed on masks sold in the area because a lot of the evacuees there are not able to travel to Manila to buy such goods,” he added.
The senator made the suggestion following complaints of soaring prices of face masks, which serve as protection from fallen ash.
Gatchalian also said that those caught and proven to have been selling overpriced face masks should face immediate imprisonment.
“It is important that the DTI to quickly act on this, and if they catch someone selling overpriced masks — I can see a lot of posts online, sharing their receipt — they should be imprisoned immediately because they are taking advantage of affected residents,” he said.
But social media posts on overpriced face masks should also be verified, he said.
“This should be verified, and if it’s true, the stores where they bought overpriced masks should be shut down and the owners should be jailed. Because of the declaration of a state of calamity, the powers of the government are expanded and can cover abuse and profiteering,” he said.
Local government units could impose sanctions against unscrupulous sellers, Gatchalian further said.
“The local government also has the power to revoke the business permits of establishments and file profiteering charges against those selling overpriced masks,” he said.
The senator, who chairs the Senate energy committee, also said the Department of Energy (DOE) could also monitor the price of gasoline in the area.
“The DOE has power over gasoline. If there are gas stations that are increasing fuel prices and are hoarding gasoline, the DOE can come in and revoke their license,” he said.
Gatchalian then called for the convening of the price monitoring council to monitor the prices of basic goods in Batangas.
“I saw the situation there,” he said. “It’s really hard for them to travel all the way to the cities to buy basic goods.”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.