Profiteering in a time of disaster
ILOILO CITY—People who survived Supertyphoon “Yolanda” are now facing what could be a bigger, though man-made, calamity—higher prices of commodities.
Residents of typhoon-ravaged towns are complaining of the sudden increases in the prices of galvanized iron sheets, iron nails, lumber and other construction materials.
In northern Iloilo province, among the worst hit, hammers are in short supply as thousands of survivors start rebuilding or repairing their houses.
At least 78,962 houses were destroyed and another 55,526 damaged in Iloilo alone, according to a Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council report released on Wednesday.
Passi City Mayor Jesry Palmares said he had to threaten business owners with the closure of their establishments after residents told him they would postpone repairing their damaged houses because of the higher prices.
“This should not happen. I understand there was a shortage but this should not be an excuse to jack up prices,” he told the Inquirer by phone on Thursday.
Palmares said that before he warned business owners, the price of iron nails in the city’s hardware stores shot up to P200 per kilogram from P90.
There were also reports in other towns that galvanized iron sheets were being sold at P400 apiece from the regular price of P320.
Demand for roofing materials escalated as most houses that had been damaged by the storm lost their roofs.
Along the national road leading to northern Iloilo, residents can be seen carrying or transporting galvanized iron sheets, pieces of lumber and other construction materials.
In Concepcion town in Iloilo, officials reported increases in the prices of some commodities.
The price of a can of sardines increased from P13.25 to P13.90 and a can of milk from P38 to P39, said Delvy Balasbas, head of the municipal price monitoring and control board.
With electricity still absent, the price of a block of ice also increased from P300 to P400, Balasbas said.
Concepcion Mayor Millard Villanueva, in a separate phone interview on Thursday, said authorities had warned store owners to stick to the price limit imposed by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) or else face sanctions.
In Estancia, Iloilo, the price of gasoline also increased because of the limited supply. Gasoline is being retailed in 1-liter soda bottles as gasoline stations were damaged or are without electricity.
The price of a half-liter of diesel reached P120, more than double the regular price of P56, according to municipal budget officer Erol Acosta.
Dominic Abad, DTI Western Visayas regional director, said the agency was closely monitoring prices of basic commodities and construction materials, and warned that violators of price ceilings would be penalized.
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