Steady flow of goods assured

DEPARTMENT of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez has assured the flow of goods in and out of Manila will not be hampered with the lockdown on Metro Manila ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday, March 12, 2020.

In a statement, the DTI said manufacturers of basic goods already assured the department that their supply is sufficient while regular stocks in warehouses are good for more or less a month.

In terms of alcohol buying, supermarkets and other retail stores heeded Lopez’s instructions to strictly implement the “two bottles of alcohol per transaction” policy to limit the purchase of each buyer to prevent a shortage and overpricing.

The heavy buying of consumer items in Cebu and the lockdown on Metro Manila have led Cebu business leaders to plan for contingencies.

“So far, the flow of essential goods and services is not hampered. But there will be a small impact by the first week of April. Local operators are encouraged to look for alternative sources starting today,” said Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) president Steven Yu.

“Overall, there is no reason to panic because the delivery of basic goods and services will be sustained. We will just need to adjust our lifestyle,” Yu added.

Yu said retailers should have a Plan B, while manufacturers will also increase their production capacity because of the demand.

The Philippine Retailers Association (PRA) in Cebu believes there is no reason to fear a shortage of basic commodities here.

“If goods are allowed to flow, then we can be normal,” said PRA-Cebu spokesperson Robert Go, who owns a supermarket chain.

Most manufactured goods sold in grocery stores such as food, personal care, clothing, facial care, haircare and laundry items are sourced from Manila, according to Go.

Most kitchen items and housewares are also sourced from the capital, Go said.

Go noted that inventories of fast-moving consumer goods are usually delivered weekly.

“I guess distribution centers have about two weeks’ inventory,” he told SunStar Cebu on Friday.

Cebu City

Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella has not imposed a lockdown in Cebu City, but strongly discouraged residents from traveling outside Cebu. He urged those planning to travel to Cebu City to postpone their visit until the Covid-19 public health emergency is lifted or withdrawn.

“It’s not a lockdown. It’s a strong suggestion that if there is no important purpose of coming out and coming in the city, just postpone it,” he said. Labella asked Cebuanos to remain calm and vigilant.

An executive order (EO) issued by the mayor on March 13 urged private establishments and organizations to postpone or cancel events and gatherings without paying additional charges and penalties. The EO also reminded restaurants to implement proper food handling protocols.

The Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu (Hrrac), meanwhile, reports an occupancy rate of about 50 percent for Cebu resorts while occupancy for Cebu City hotels is down to only 30 percent.

Hrrac president Carlo Suarez said this may further drop if solutions are not put in place.

The Covid-19 scare has led to several cancellations of bookings from tourists, both domestic and foreign.

“We are receiving cancellations already, but we in Hrrac with the province of Cebu and our local government units will overcome this,” Suarez said.

Meanwhile, Food and Drug Administration inspectors were mobilized to check on merchants who overpriced surgical masks and emergency items above the Department of Health’s price ceiling.

For N95 masks, the price range is P45 to P105, disposable face masks P1.1 to P8. Ethyl Alcohol with 70% solution (60 mL) is at P17.25 to P25.50. For 250 mL, price range is at P36.75 to P41.75 while 500 mL bottles should be at P61 to P74.25.

Local pharmaceutical company IPI said in a statement that it has been receiving complaints about the hoarding and overpricing of alcohol/sanitizer products including Casino Ethyl Alcohol.

“We would like to announce that the suggested retail prices of our products since October 2017 are as follows: 60 mL is at P18.27, 120 mL is at P26.93, 250 mL, P37.28 and 500 mL at P66.52,” the statement read.

IPI said they highly encourage the public to buy at authorized retail outlets. However, buyers were advised that prices may vary per store.

On the 30-day “community quarantine” of Metro Manila, Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año on Friday, March 13, clarified that residents of nearby provinces who work and have official business in Metro Manila would be exempted from the travel restrictions.

Año said they would be allowed to get in and out of Metro Manila provided that they present identification documents showing that they work in the National Capital Region, which is the entire Metro Manila.

Año said the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will establish checkpoints at the entry and exit points of Metro Manila when the community quarantine takes effect on March 15, 2020. He, however, encouraged those who can work from home to do so also to avoid the inconvenience expected during checkpoint inspections.

Año said the government, through the Department of Labor and Employment, will coordinate with the private companies for the possible adjustments in work hours to reduce the number of people coming in and out of the metro.

Guidelines issued by the DILG also said entry travel restrictions shall be imposed upon those traveling from countries with localized Covid-19 transmissions except for Filipino citizens including their foreign spouse and children, if any, holders of permanent resident visa, and holders of diplomatic visas issued by the Philippine Government.

“If coming in through NAIA, they shall remain in Metro Manila until the domestic travel ban is lifted if ultimate destination is the provinces. If flying in through Clark, Cebu and other airports not under quarantine, they can proceed to their ultimate destination except Metro Manila,” the DILG said. (CSL , JOB , JJL, ANV, TPM)