(Photo courtesy of PCADG Visayas)

MANILA – Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Dionardo Carlos on Sunday night alerted police units to be on the lookout against unscrupulous traders and businessmen who may take advantage of Typhoon Odette's aftermath to hike prices of basic goods in calamity-hit areas.

This, after the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said an automatic price freeze is imposed in areas placed under a state of calamity.

The local governments of Camarines Norte, Cebu, Bohol, and Negros Occidental have declared a state of calamity in the aftermath of 'Odette'.

Aside from post-disaster relief and rehabilitation operations and disaster management measures being carried out by the PNP, police units in the regional, provincial, city, and municipal levels were given added duties to monitor prices of goods in their respective areas to ensure proper implementation of Republic Act 7581 or the Price Act.

Sections 6 and 7 of the law expressly provide that “prices of basic necessities in an area shall automatically be frozen at their prevailing prices or placed under automatic price control whenever that area is proclaimed or declared a disaster area or under a state of calamity; and a price ceiling may be imposed on any basic necessity or prime commodity considering the impendency, existence, or effects of a calamity.”

Basic commodities collectively refer to rice; corn; bread; fresh dried and canned fish and other marine products; fresh pork, beef, and poultry meat; fresh eggs; fresh and processed milk; fresh vegetables; root crops; coffee; sugar; cooking oil; salt; laundry soap; detergents; firewood; charcoal; candles; and drugs classified as essential by the Department of Health.

Violators may face imprisonment for a period of not less than one year but not more than 10 years, or a fine of not less than PHP5,000 but not more than PHP1 million. (PNA)