DRIVE VS. PROFITEERING. Consumers line up at a supermarket in Makati City to buy products in large volumes amid the Covid-19 outbreak in the country. The Department of Trade and Industry said strict measures will be in place against hoarders taking advantage of the situation for profiteering. (Photo courtesy of Laban Konsyumer Inc.)

MANILA – Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez said on Thursday the government will implement stricter measures against profiteers and hoarders amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) outbreak.

In a text message to reporters, Lopez said DTI has proposed to President Rodrigo Duterte to issue an executive order (EO) to go after those who put unfairly large profit on products which are in demand during this situation and those who hoard goods whether for own consumption or re-selling them for higher prices.

He said Duterte has agreed with DTI’s proposal and the EO is expected to be out “as soon as possible”.

Lopez said the EO will include measures against online sellers that are overpricing personal hygiene products.

“Online selling of masks and/or medical devices including alcohol, sanitizers, and the like will be strictly monitored and profiteering and hoarding will be dealt with,” he said.

He added that the EO will arm DTI with “visitorial powers” together with the Philippine National Police (PNP) and National Bureau Investigation (NBI) to prevent hoarding and profiteering.

“For the deputization also of NBI and PNP for police and intel support. Extra warning for online sellers for overpricing and hoarding,” Lopez said.

Edmond Ramos from Bulacan has encountered an online seller selling 500-milliliter isopropyl alcohol at PHP350 per bottle, which is only PHP75 per bottle in supermarkets.

Joe Marie Torrefiel, also from Bulacan, said he already reported to DTI an online seller that prices a box of 50 pieces of surgical masks for PHP1,700.

Consumers also shared their own experiences as they observed panic buying in supermarkets and groceries.

Arjhay Dulalia, who went for their regular shopping in a supermarket in Valenzuela City on Wednesday night, said they queued for nearly four hours in the cashier as many of the customers were buying supplies more than what they needed.

The team leader of the said supermarket in Valenzuela City told the Philippine News Agency that cashiers and other staff have to extend their working hours as customers flocked the store that day and bought supplies in larger volumes.

“We were really stressed. We had a very long queue and our workers have to extend working hours to refill stocks in preparation for the next day,” he said.

On the other hand, a supermarket in Meycauayan City, Bulacan implemented its own measure to prevent panic buying by limiting the purchase of alcohol up to two bottles per customer.

Laban Konsyumer Inc. president Victorio Mario Dimagiba said the behavior of panic buying among consumers by going to supermarkets can even cause the spread of Covid-19.

“The panic buying we are seeing violates the experts’ advice to limit social contact,” Dimagiba said in Filipino. (PNA)