MANILA, Philippines – The government appealed to the public anew to remain calm and refrain from panic buying amid the spread of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country.
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) made the statement following reports of panic buying in some stores in Metro Manila over concerns of a possible lockdown due to growing coronavirus infections in the region.
The DTI assured the country has enough supplies of basic goods, and hoarding would only increase the prices of necessities.
“Kung sakaling magla-lockdown ang Metro Manila, we have sufficient supply. Maraming commissaries and warehouse ng manufacturers natin ang nandito and retailers,” Trade Undersecretary Ruth Castelo said on Thursday.
Authorities also reiterated that a lockdown in the metropolis is not yet implemented amid the surge in COVID-19 cases.
The Philippines has so far recorded 49 confirmed cases with two fatalities.
The jump in coronavirus infections in the last few days has spurred many consumers to head to grocery stores and buy some products in bulk, such as bottles of alcohol, sanitizers, liquid soap and tissues, as well as food items like rice and canned goods.
To curb fear-based hoarding, the DTI said it has asked supermarket operators to limit the number of health products customers can buy so that more people may purchase these goods to protect themselves against the virus.
The DTI said each consumer should only be allowed to buy two bottles of alcohol and other hygiene products to avoid shortages in the market.
“Unless ipaligo mo yung alcohol, hindi mo kailangan ng sampung bote. Kung ikaw lang or a family of 5 dahil sa kamay lang naman ginagamit,” Castelo said.
Malacañang has earlier made a similar appeal, and urged the public to “buy only what they need” as panic-buying would only result in “undue hoarding and price increases.”
The DTI official also reminded traders that a price freeze is being implemented nationwide following the declaration of a state of public health emergency by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Castelo said prices of basic necessities shall be frozen at their prevailing prices for 60 days unless lifted by the president.
Among the basic goods covered by the price freeze are canned fish and other marine products, locally manufactured instant noodles, bottled water, processed milk, coffee, candles, laundry soap, detergent, and salt.
Also covered in the price freeze are agricultural products such as rice, corn, cooking oil, fresh, dried and other marine products, fresh eggs, fresh pork, beef and poultry meat, fresh milk, fresh vegetables, root crops, sugar and fresh fruits.
Basic goods like essential drugs, firewood and charcoal, household liquefied petroleum gas and kerosene are also covered by the price freeze.
The DTI warns to slap charges against establishments found to have violated the price freeze.
“Pwede sigurong ibaba ng retailer kung sa tingin nila pwedeng mabawasan yung profit nila pero hindi nila pwedeng itaas (ang presyo),” Castelo said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Victor Cosare)
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