The departments of Agriculture, Trade and Industry and Health have reactivated local price coordinating councils (LPCCs) to closely monitor the prices of farm and fishery products, processed goods and medicines sold in Metro Manila and other urban centers nationwide as the government strengthens its quarantine efforts.
Under a recent joint memorandum circular, the three agencies agreed to allow the LPCCs of different local government units to help implement the suggested retail price (SRP) scheme, which means they have the power to issue warnings and apprehend offenders, including those who sell online.
Updated price bulletins will also be provided to the LPCC, market supervisors, retailers and suppliers, and these must be displayed in prominent areas in public markets.
“The reactivation of LPCCs was one of the measures approved by the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Disease to monitor and forestall the excessive and unreasonable price spikes of agrifishery commodities, processed products and medicines,” Agriculture Secretary William Dar said in a statement.
“Our aim is to protect consumers against undue price spikes as the nation is under a state of emergency due to the spread of the novel coronavirus disease,” he added.
In the past week, the Department of Agriculture’s daily price monitoring showed prices of selected food items skyrocketed by as much as 45 percent, mostly due to delivery gaps from conflicting checkpoint guidelines rather than a shortage of stocks.
Most of the stalls jointly monitored by Dar and Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez on Thursday were also found selling food items above the SRP.
As such, the three agencies are looking whether or not the SRP scheme should be expanded to include other commodities.
“We currently impose an SRP on nine food commodities and we are analyzing the price monitoring data we have collected for the entire country in the last three months to serve as basis to expand the list if warranted,” Dar said.
Any person or entity found violating the SRP under the Price Act would be fined between P5,000 and P2 million and could face jail terms between five and 15 years.
According to Dar, they expected prices to start settling at reasonable and affordable levels by the end of this week as the transport of food and other cargoes, including the movement of farmers, fishers, food logistics providers and food processing workers begins to improve.
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