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Palace, traders: No need for panic buying

panic buying covid-19

PANICKING Shoppers worried about COVID-19 and uncertainties about what may happen in the coming days fill their carts to stock up on food and other supplies in this supermarket in Makati City. —EDWIN BACASMAS

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Wednesday called on the public to buy only what they need following reports of panic buying in some stores amid concerns over a general contagion of the new coronavirus in Metro Manila.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the country had enough supplies of basic goods, and hoarding would only increase the prices of necessities.

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“There are reports of panic buying in some supermarkets, groceries or pharmacies. This would only result in undue hoarding and price increases. Our officials from the Department of Trade and Industry gave assurances that we have ample stock of essential items,” Panelo said in a statement.

A supermarket industry group is trying to curb fear-based hoarding by asking its more than 300 member stores to limit the number of health products customers can buy so that more people can buy these goods to protect themselves against the coronavirus.

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Philippine Amalgamated Supermarkets Association Inc. has released guidelines to its member-stores, warning them against people who buy products in bulk from retailers when they should go to wholesalers for these.

Steven Cu, the association president, said there should be a limit to the number of face masks, bottles of alcohol or liquid soap that customers could buy to avoid shortages in the market.

Cu wrote the guidelines, which were shared by a consumer group with reporters on Wednesday.

For example, he said, each customer could buy only two bottles of alcohol.

In a phone interview later, Cu said the group had no plan to monitor its members because ultimately they should decide the quantity cap.

Creative stocking

“By limiting the sale of these items to our customers, we allow as many households to avail [themselves] of these products,” the association said.

The group has 383 member stores catering to the B, C and D markets, who may be less capable to pay the cost of treatment in case of infection.

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The association also advised members to be creative in stocking their shelves. For instance, Cu said, any brand of alcohol is better than none at all and eases fears that stocks are running out.

“[Customers] will not be as choosy regarding brands if they cannot find their desired brands … in three or four other stores,” the association said.

“Though panic buying may result in increased sales over a short period of time for us, it results in inflation and bites the buying public when goods [run] out of regular supply and [are] replenished at a higher cost,” it said.

Steady supply

SM Markets also advised the public against panic buying, saying its stores had enough stocks of hygiene products.

Joey Mendoza, president of SM Supermarkets, noted on Wednesday a significant increase in demand for basic goods and hygiene products like alcohol and cleaning items.

The increase, however, has not resulted in shortages at SM Supermarkets, Hypermarkets and Savemore stores because the stores have sufficient stocks, Mendoza said. Suppliers, he added, had assured the group of steady supply.

“Our supplies are sufficient so we discourage shoppers from hoarding,” Mendoza said by phone.

Fake news

Fear-based hoarding is usually set off by alarming news, although the government has not neglected to advise the public to heed only information from relevant agencies.

Residents of the City of San Fernando, in Pampanga province, went panic buying on Wednesday after news spread that Gov. Dennis Pineda had issued an order placing the province on lockdown.

Ruby, a mother of three, shopped at Waltermart in Barangay San Agustin, filling her cart with alcohol, toilet paper, tinned goods and rice.“I spent almost P3,000 and wished I had more money to buy additional canned goods,” Ruby said, adding there was a long line of shoppers at the supermarket.

She said news of the advisory from the office of the governor had prompted her to stock up.

Reached for comment, the office of the governor said the news about the advisory was fake.

Flaring tempers

At 3 p.m. in Shopwise’s branch in Makati City on Wednesday, the staff was overwhelmed by a crush of shoppers. Two harassed cashiers were heard arguing while ringing in customers’ stuff.

A male bagger complained, “They sent the reliever where the line is short.”

“The counter should have long shut down,” said a female cashier.

It was off-peak hour but shoppers kept coming. They were cleaning the shelves of hygiene products.

When the Inquirer looked, the toiletries section had run out of large-bottle alcohol. Only small bottles were left. Tissue paper, always plentiful at the supermarket, was almost gone.

—With reports from Tonette Orejas and Mary Ann Perido

For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

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