THAT some, if not all, business establishments jacked up the prices of the basic commodities during or after calamities is not unusual nor new. We have experienced it every time a calamity happens. These are the types of entrepreneurs who delight when disasters happen since it would give them the opportunity to make huge profit out of the misery of the victims.
Hoarders abound after Typhoon Odette struck southern Cebu and the metropolitan area. Goods like batteries, bottled water, water or fuel containers and ice that are hardly saleable during the good times were quickly cleared off the shelves in all the supermarkets. Then these items were suddenly found in small roadside stores and the prices were off the charts.
There was also hoarding of fuel. In Danao City, a friend told me that he was obliged to pay P150 for a liter of ordinary gasoline placed in a bottle of soft drink to avoid the long queue of motorists waiting to be served in all the refueling stations. It was unbelievable, if not absurd, that motorists—from owners of cars, trucks and motorcycles—have to line up for fuel when the government has assured the consumers of the availability of fuel.
The profiteers have taken advantage of most of us who panicked in the aftermath of Typhoon Odette. I suppose that most of those who went to the supermarkets a day after “Odette” hit Cebu did not anymore mind the increased prices of the goods they bought since they were after the goods’ availability. Believe it or not, all the frozen goods in one supermarket that I went to were sold out.
The panic became intense because of the blackout and the supply of water was scarce. This only demonstrated that while most of us were aware of the incoming storm, we were unprepared because we did not expect the strength of Typhoon Odette when she unleashed her power at about 9 p.m. until about 10 p.m. on Dec. 16, uprooting trees, pulling down electric poles, crushing houses of light materials and leaving untold damage that the national government quantified in the billions of pesos.
The worse scenario came when despite the assurances of the MCWD executives of the immediate restoration of the water supply, water was still unavailable and residents had to line up for free water served by the water tankers from the Bureau of Fire Protection and fire brigade volunteers. The same is true with electricity. Visayan Electric is working to restore power soon, but several areas in its franchise area, including Cebu City, are still dark at night.
On the other hand, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) caught two establishments on Dec. 24, a day before Christmas, selling overpriced basic necessities. But DTI did not name the two establishments, which were among the 126 businesses monitored by the agency. Are the owners of the establishments influential that DTI kept their names under wraps? Maybe DTI is only following the procedure not to name the erring establishments as it awaits the management’s explanation.
The DTI issued a freeze order on all prices of the basic commodities on Dec. 23, six days after Typhoon Odette ravaged Cebu. Under the Price Act, the violators will be charged criminally or administratively. Violation of the automatic price control carries a penalty of fine in the amount of P1,000 to P1 million. The illegal price manipulation is penalized with a fine of P5,000 to P2 million if found guilty.
But have we ever heard of someone charged and penalized for profiteering?
December 28, 2021
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