Go after heartless, greedy profiteers

"What a shame."


It's disheartening to see tens of thousands of our fellow Filipinos get displaced, losing their homes and livelihood in the midst of Taal Volcano's eruption. They face an uncertain future even as the potentially deadlier volcanic activity continues.

Immediately affected were the provinces of Batangas, Cavite and Laguna but the widespread ashfall caused by the Jan. 12 eruption reached Metro Manila, and caused the panic-buying of N95 facemasks.

Cashing in on the people's need for facemasks for protection from breathing in polluted air, not quite a few unscrupulous businessmen started selling the N95 facemask at much higher prices.

Anxious people trooped to the stores all over Metro Manila fearing for Taal's imminent major eruption although air condition in the National Capital Region has actually “normalized,” according to the authorities.

To check on retail prices, a team from the Department of Trade and Industry, along with television news reporters, visited some stores in downtown Manila and confirmed reports that N95 facemasks were being sold at P200 or even higher when it should cost only P45-P105. 

When asked to explain, the sellers simply said the suppliers have raised factory prices, that's they have to raise retail prices, too. 

The DTI said the traders will be asked to explain after which charges may be filed for overpricing, facing loss of business permit and penalty of up to P2 million.

One storeowner interviewed on live TV apparently could not care less, shrugging her shoulders and saying “Susulatan nila kami tapos sasagutin sila ng abogado namin. Ganun lang yun.” 

It also surfaced that some N95 facemasks are fake or substandard which means the quality of the medical material is less than that required by the Food and Drug Administration. 

An official of the Department of Health said substandard N95 facemasks being sold should be confiscated. But none has been confiscated since the televised DTI inspections.

I bet the DTI has yet to issue any notice of violations yet although one official was quoted as cases were “being prepared.” The local government has neither padlocked any store for overpricing. 

It's a shame that some cold-blooded, greedy traders resort to profiteering in times of calamity, only in the Philippines.

This unfortunate news has prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to consider giving out free N95 facemasks to residents of affected areas.

Topics: Taal Volcano , N95 facemask , Department of Trade and Industry , Department of Health
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