DRUG and medical stores have committed to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) that they will not increase their prices for N95, surgical and other similar masks as the country faces the effects of the phreatic eruption of Taal Volcano which happened on Sunday, Jan, 12, 2020.
Upon receipt of public reports about the rampant selling of overpriced medical masks in the market, the DTI mobilized monitoring teams in the affected areas of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Quezon and Metro Manila to monitor the prices and supply of said products, including those goods classified as basic necessities and prime commodities.
Monitoring reports revealed that N95 masks are sold at P120 up to P150 per piece while surgical masks that were priced at P1 per piece were sold at P4 per piece after the Taal eruption. These were mostly sold out due to an increase in public demand as ashfall enveloped nearby cities and provinces surrounding Taal.
“While we recognize that the N95, surgical and other similar masks as medical supplies are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Health (DOH), the DTI readily dispersed its teams to monitor the prices and supply of these masks to assist the DOH and the consumers. As the Health Department, we understand that its utmost priority is ensuring the lives and health safety of those who are affected by the phreatic eruption. Market surveillance and monitoring is the best form of immediate assistance that the DTI can provide. As the President constantly underscores, a whole-of-government approach is highly necessary and called for especially during times of calamities and disasters,” said DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez.
The DTI clarified that these masks are neither classified as basic nor prime goods under the Price Act. Therefore, these have no Suggested Retail Prices (SRPs) and were never part of the list of products being monitored by the DOH or any of the implementing agencies of the said law.
However, the Price Act provides that the National Price Coordinating Council (NPCC) that the DTI and DOH are part of, can recommend to the President the inclusion of these masks in the list of basic or prime goods. When approved, the NPCC through the recommendation of the DOH and consultation with relevant stakeholders can set an SRP, if found necessary.
Since stocks of the medical masks are depleted, the DTI talked with local suppliers and major drug store chains such as Mercury Drug, Watsons and Southstar Drug to ensure that they immediately restock their supplies. (PR)