“The prices of basic necessities are frozen for 60 days following the (issuance of) Proclamation No. 922 declaring a State of Public Health Emergency throughout the Philipines due to the outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19),” the DTI said in its advisory.
The department earlier froze the prices of essential medicines in January following the virus outbreak.
In an interview with GMA News, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez assured consumers there is no need to resort to panic buying as there is enough supply of items such as tissue paper and alcohol.
Lopez said groceries and supermarkets are only running out of alcohol and sanitizers on display, but this did not mean there is a shortage.
“There’s no need to go into panic buying,” he said in Filipino. “This will only create an artificial shortage.”
The Philippine Amalgamated Supermarkets Association on Wednesday urged its member supermarkets to set a limit to the sale of face masks, alcohol, sanitizers, wipes, hand or liquid soap and disinfectants to avoid running out of stock.
“[The] ideal would be to limit customers to two bottles of alcohol per purchase as this already increases the regular demand for alcohol to 2x what we normally order from our suppliers. This way, we are able to sell rubbing alcohol to as many households as possible,” association president Steven Cua said.
“By limiting the sale of these items to our customers, we allow as many households to avail of these products. Limits are set to products as they become scarce,” Cua said.
Cua said supermarkets should be wary of wholesale customers who buy scarce products in bulk.
“Ample supply in supermarkets is good only for individual end-users. Let these people who buy in bulk scout from distributors or wholesalers who carry these items in [greater] volume,” he said.
“Let us protect the buying public during times like these and show that we are good corporate citizens concerned about the well-being of the citizenry,” Cua said.
He said panic buying may result in increased sales over a short period of time, while supplies last, but bites the buying public when goods run out and are replenished at a higher cost.
Purchase limits would also allow more people to buy the products that can keep them safe from COVID-19 and benefit the entire community instead of a minority who can afford to stock up.
Cua also urged supermarkets to order enough supplies to make sure they do not run out and to be “creative” in where they source their products.
“Better to have any brand of rubbing alcohol or face masks or hand sanitizer than none at all to allay the fear of customers that stocks are running out,” he said. “They will not be as choosy regarding brands if they cannot find their desired brand of products in three or four other stores.”
Malacañang on Wednesday called on the public not to resort to panic buying amid reports that COVID-19 infections are on the rise.
Palace spokesperson Salvador Panelo also advised the public to trust reports of the virus from concerned government agencies and refrain from sharing unverified information about COVID-19.
“Let us not circulate unverified information that may only cause unnecessary anxiety among the members of our respective communities and instead maintain good hygiene and observe proper etiquette at all times,” he said.
The Palace official also assured the public that there was enough supply of basic needs.
“Buy only what they need because panic buying would only result in undue hoarding and price increases,” Panelo said.
Senator Richard Gordon, meanwhile, urged the government to stockpile strategic supplies needed to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak.
Gordon offered this recommendation during hearings on amending the charter of the state-owned Philippine International Trading Corp. to empower it to do such stockpiling of goods such as face masks, personal protective equipment, canned goods, rice, medicine and blood bags.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, meanwhile, told lawmakers that it is difficult for the poor who live in cramped surroundings and who have to take public transportation to exercise “social distancing” to stem the spread of COVID-19.
At a hearing conducted by the House health committee on the COVID-19 status and response, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said that despite the threat posed by the virus, many would still opt to take mass public transport such as the Metro Rail Transit (MRT).
“I, myself, admit that addressing concerns of our poor countrymen like squatters as well as those who take mass public transportation is really a big challenge,” Duque said.
Meanwhile, Rep. Florida Robes of the lone district of San Jose Del Monte City, Bulacan confirmed that the city has its first case of COVID-19 infection.
Robes made the statement following an emergency meeting with the city officials led by SJDM Mayor Arthur Robes, city health and disaster risk reduction task force officials Tuesday.
Robes, chairperson of the House participation committee, said the patient is a 58-year-old Filipina with no travel history abroad and exposure to an infected person. The patent experienced coughing, fever, and shortness of breath on March 4, and was found positive for the virus on March 9.
The patient is being treated at Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital and Sanitarium in Caloocan City and is in stable condition.
“We will extend all assistance to the patient,” Robes said, adding that the city has already quarantined her immediate relatives and house companions.
“We would like to tell everyone not to panic. We are doing everything we can to address the situation based on the guidelines set by the Department of Health. We are ready and we will be able to fight this if everyone follows the protocols set by our health officials,” she said.
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