Automatic price freeze takes effect

Automatic price freeze took effect yesterday in areas declared under state of calamity which means that prices must remain at levels prior to such declaration, the Department of Trade and Industry said.

Atty. Victorio Mario A. Dimagiba, officer-in-charge of the DTI Consumer Welfare and Business Regulation Group, said that so far five areas outside of the National Capital Region have been declared under state of calamity due to damage caused by heavy monsoon rains and flooding brought about by typhoon Maring.

As of press time, these areas are Sta. Rosa City of Laguna and San Pedro towan of Laguna; Sta. Maria and Narvacan towns of Ilocos Sur; and the whole province of Cavite.

Dimagiba also said that the town of Cordova in Cebu was also placed under state of calamity yesterday morning by the local government due to the oil spill following the collision of two vessels that claimed 52 lives already.

"Under the law, once an area is declared under a state of calamity, an automatic price freeze takes effect immediately. This means that basic commodities must remain at their prevailing prices prior to the declaration," Dimagiba said.

DTI Secretary Gregory L. Domingo, who is in Brunei attending the ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting, is also monitoring the situation and has been in contact with Dimagiba.

The Price Act states that state of calamity is good for 60 days, but Dimagiba said it is up for the local authorities, either the provincial or city or town to lift the declaration before the 60 day period.

A price freeze is implemented in areas under state of calamity to ensure that no traders or unscrupulous businesses take undue advantage of the situation. Violators will face up to 10 years imprisonment and a fine of up to R1 million.

RA 7851 or the Price Law has expanded the coverage of basic commodities to include bottled water, instant noodles, fruits, household liquefied petroleum gas and kerosene.

The previous Price Act's list of basic necessities is limited to rice, corn, root crops, bread, fish (fresh, dried or canned) and other marine products; fresh pork, beef and poultry meat; eggs; fresh and processed milk; fresh vegetables; coffee; sugar; cooking oil; salt; laundry soap and detergents; firewood; charcoal; candles, and essential drugs.(BCM)

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