House panel moves to provide more consumer protection

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By: Manila Bulletin

The House Committee on Trade and Industry has moved to make Republic Act (RA) No. 7581 or the Price Act of 1992 more attuned to the persisting COVID-19 pandemic.

In a virtual hearing, Valenzuela City Rep. Weslie Gatchalian carried a motion to consolidate four measures that seek to provide additional protection to consumers in the pricing of commodities.

“Hearing no objections, the motion to consolidate House Bills (HB) 1278, 2662, 5178, and 6658 is carried,” he said, acting on a motion made by Quezon City Rep. Bong Suntay.

The latest bill filed in the bunch, HB No. 6658, declares personal protective equipment (PPE), face masks, safety goggles, and medical devices as prime commodities which may be subject to price ceilings, particularly in times of outbreaks and epidemics, pandemics, or public health emergencies. It was authored by Deputy Speaker and CIBAC party-list Rep. Eddie Villanueva.

“A few days after the first confirmed COVID-19 patient in the Philippines was reported on Jan. 30, 2020, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) found that three profiteering pharmacies in Cebu City were selling overpriced surgical and N95 masks by as much as 35 percent. Worse, even foreign nationals took advantage of the situation to profit from (it). For example, five foreign nationals were arrested by the Manila Police District for selling masks higher than the suggested retail price (SRP) set by DTI,” Villanueva said in the explanatory note of the bill.

The process of consolidation will result to a substitute bill representing all four measures. The substitute bill would then be approved by the committee.

Gatchalian carried a separate motion to incorporate amendments proposed by the DTI to the 28-year-old Price Act. DTI Undersecretary Ruth Castelo presented these suggested changes to the law during the hearing.

Among the sought amendments was a provision to “issue a suggested retail price to be used at any specific time for any or all basic necessities and prime commodities under its jurisdiction for the information and guidance of producers, manufacturers, traders, dealers, sellers, retailers, and consumers.”


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