MARAWI CITY: Even as residents have slammed local and national officials for allegedly doing nothing against abusive sellers who are selling basic commodities here at surging prices during the coronavirus crisis, the Bangsamoro government has imposed a “price freeze” on basic goods and essentials in the autonomous region.
The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), through its Ministry of Trade, Investments and Tourism (MTIT), decided on the move, according to MTIT Minister Abuamri Taddik.
Taddik said the price freeze on all agricultural and manufactured basic goods, essential medicines and other medical supplies was imposed pursuant to Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) memorandum pursuant to Section 6 of the Price Act (Republic Act 7581), as amended by RA 10623.
RA 10623 states that whenever there is a declaration of a state of emergency, calamity or other similar conditions, prices of basic necessities shall be frozen at their prevailing prices for 60 days or until sooner lifted by the Philippine president.
Residents have been complaining of the soaring prices of basic needs in Marawi City, which is yet to recover from the 2017 siege that devastated the city and rendered thousands homeless.
Housewife Ummaimah Bint Solayman said, “What is the Department of Trade and Industry doing? A Maranao from Lanao del Sur is a top-ranking official. Why does he not arrest the culprits and close their businesses?”
Consumer Hj Yahya Tocalo believed it is the duty of both the DTI and the local government unit to arrest the abusive sellers.
He believed government officials are not doing their job in this regard.
Academician Jamael Ali said these Maranaw traders have no heart and that calamities don’t matter to them.
“Authorities should look at this problem seriously,”he added.
Taddik said his office has formed a special price monitoring team to closely monitor the prices of all basic goods and other essential supplies after President Rodrigo Duterte declared public health emergency throughout the country on March 8.
“In order to relay the message, the MTIT has already coordinated with radio stations and posted tarpaulins containing guidelines for business owners,” he added.
The minister said there was also a constant coordination with local government units, the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation,
The MTIT has issued a memorandum order for all of its provincial offices and directors to inform the public of the anti-hoarding and anti-panic buying policy.
This order shall set reasonable limit in selling all basic necessities and some medical supplies intended for health protection, Taddik said.
He, however, added that the price of agricultural products in BARMM is set by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Agrarian Reform, which will still depend on the price ceiling recommended by the Local Price Coordination Council.
“Currently,” the minister said, “the trading situation in the BARMM is stable and there’s no unreasonable price increase detected.”
Taddik added that since its implementation, two businessmen — one in Maguindanao and one in Marawi City — did not follow the protocol and were given warnings already.
The minister also warned business owners not to violate the law, otherwise they will be apprehended.
He said a violator could face a fine ranging between P5,000.00 and P2,000,000.00, imprisonment of not less than five up to 15 years, and his business permit/license confiscated and business operation closed.
(The article BARMM freezes prices of basic commodities by Masiding noor Yahya first appeared at The Manila Times)