A city councilor is seeking an investigation into the possible hoarding of face masks as pharmacies and medical distributors have run out of supplies.
Councilor Pamela Librado-Morata, committee chair on labor and employment opportunities, filed a resolution under suspended rules on Tuesday requesting the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) check the reported shortage of masks in the city.
“The wearing of medical masks has been the reactive measure of the public to prevent the spread of nCoV as there are reported cases in the country. However, there have been several reports of the scarcity and possible hoarding of masks,” she said during the regular session on Tuesday at the Sangguniang Panlungsod.
The DTI, along with the Department of Health, will have to monitor and regulate the sale of medical masks by all pharmaceutical and medical stores in the city.
In an interview, Morata said these masks are needed by medical personnel in hospitals and sick people, like cancer patients or individuals undergoing dialysis treatment.
“The shortage of these masks may affect people in the hospital. It is not necessary to wear a mask as the DOH said. Let these masks serve as protection to those who really need it,” she said.
The DOH, in a recent press conference, said that masks are not necessary against nCoV as of the moment. But people can put them on if they already have a cough or flu.
Morata also urged the public and medical stores to give way to those who needed the masks the most.
Meanwhile, DTI XI trade and industry specialist Christopher Dalhog said that based on their monitoring last week, there has been a shortage of medical face masks in the city.
“True enough, most of the major pharmacies and medical suppliers in the city have no stocks of masks already. Some pharmacies have limited stocks but that was only good for that day during our monitoring,” he said.
The DOH has alerted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is tasked to regulate medicines, drugs, and medical devices.
“It may be that the information on social media regarding the novel coronavirus caused the panic-buying of the people. What happened is that people are wearing medical masks even without any sickness like common colds or flu,” he said.
“Medical personnel needed it the most, and also those people in the hospital, ” he added.
DTI XI must give
Meanwhile, another lawmaker also asked the DTI XI to provide regular updates to appease the frayed nerves of the public.
Councilor Jessica Bonguyan, committee chair on information technology and internal relations, in her privilege speech on Tuesday said some profiteers are taking advantage of the situation by marking up the price of masks.
“The spread of information regarding nCoV, regardless of the truth or falsity of that information, has instilled a fear among the citizens of the country. The people, whether motivated by fear of by profit, are engaging in the overpricing of these face masks,” she said.
She also reiterated that Republic Act No. 7581 or the Price Act of May 27, 1992, states that “it is the policy of the State to ensure the availability of basic necessities and prime commodities at reasonable prices at all times without denying legitimate business a fair return on investment. It is also a declared policy of the State to provide effective and sufficient protection to consumers against hoarding, profiteering and cartels with respect to the supply, distribution, marketing and pricing of said goods, especially during periods of calamity, emergency, widespread illegal price manipulation and other similar situations.”
Meanwhile, Christopher Dalhog, DTI XI trade and industry specialist, said in an interview that they have not monitored any overpricing of masks last week.
“We have talked with the regular customers and medical suppliers and pharmacies in the city. Based on their statements, there were no overpriced face masks in the city. Medical suppliers and pharmacies have not increased their prices,” he said.
He said that the price for these medical face masks still ranged from P75 to P650 per box, which is the standard pricing.
“The price may depend on the brand. We have the premium brand, which is more expensive and the generic or unbranded ones, which are mostly sold in the medical stores,” he said. “It is the normal pricing of masks per box, if you divide 75 to 50 pieces then you will get a total of one point something,” he added.