MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte ordered a price freeze on basic commodities, emergency medicines, and medical supplies, as Luzon and many other parts of the country are on lockdown to avert the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Duterte on Tuesday, March 17, issued Memorandum Circular No. 77, ordering national government agencies and local government units to comply with price control measures earlier issued by the health, agriculture, and trade departments.
This immediately followed Duterte’s order placing the entire Philippines under a state of calamity for 6 months due to the coronavirus pandemic. (READ: LIST: Areas in PH under quarantine, curfews, state of calamity)
The Department of Health and the Department of Trade and Industry earlier ordered a price freeze on emergency medicines and medical supplies.
The Department of Agriculture, meanwhile, provided suggested retail prices for basic agricultural and fishery commodities in Metro Manila.
Duterte’s order cites Republic Act No. 7581 or the Price Act, which prohibits hoarding, profiteering, and cartels in the supply, distribution, marketing, and pricing of goods during times of calamity or emergency.
The Price Act protects consumers from price manipulation at times when the demand for basic items tends to shoot up because of public disturbances.
Duterte had placed Metro Manila under “community quarantine” starting Sunday, March 15, then ratcheted the measure up on Tuesday to an “enhanced community quarantine” covering the entire island of Luzon.
With a population of more than 57 million, Luzon residents comprise roughly half of the national population. Other parts of the country have also declared community quarantines to quell the coronavirus. (READ: GUIDELINES: Luzon ‘enhanced community quarantine’)
In areas on lockdown, malls and other non-essential commercial establishments are either ordered or encouraged to temporarily close until the quarantine period is lifted.
Metro Manila is set to be locked down until April 14. The rest of Luzon will be on lockdown until April 12.
As of Tuesday, the Philippines has had 187 confirmed cases of infection, 12 deaths, and 4 recoveries.
Experts posit that the number of local cases may reach 26,000 by the end of March if the virus is not contained.
The global death toll, meanwhile, has reached 7,007 with 3,213 of the fatalities in China. The number of cases worldwide has risen to 175,536. – Rappler.com