DOE, DTI remind traders of automatic price freeze in calamity-hit areas

The energy and trade departments on Monday reminded traders and oil companies to abide by the law mandating  a price freeze in typhoon Karding-hit areas that will be declared under a state of calamity,   warning that those who will be found in violation will face considerable prison time and fines.

Rino Abad, director of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oil Industry Management Bureau told the Inquirer  they would issue advisories on areas that would be placed under state of calamity by local government units (LGUs).

“We have already prepared the necessary paperwork for these. We are just waiting for the copies (of the declaration of state of calamity) from the LGUS,” Abad said in mixed English and Pilipino during a phone interview.

Abad said they would issue the  price freeze bulletin for the municipality of Dingalan in Aurora province, citing news reports that its mayor, Shierwin Taay, has already declared a state of calamity in the area.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said they were working with the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD), the implementing arm of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), to get inputs regarding price stabilization measures in typhoon-affected areas.

“We coordinate with the OCD to advise us on declarations. Automatic price freeze applies only to basic necessities,” Trade Undersecretary Atty. Ruth B. Castelo, who heads the department’s consumer protection group, said in a message sent to the Inquirer.

According to the DTI,  food items considered as basic necessities include rice, corn, fresh eggs, fresh pork, beef and poultry meat.

Also included in this category are canned fish and other marine products, processed milk, coffee, laundry soap, detergent, candles, bread and salt.

Sought for comment on the penalties for violators, Abad pointed to Republic Act No. 7581, otherwise known as “The Price Act” of 1992.

Under the law, penalties for price manipulation include imprisonment five to 15 years, with fines ranging from ₱5,000 to ₱2 million.

Those found violating the price ceiling face prison time of one year to 10 years, as well as fines ranging from ₱5,000 to ₱1 million

Karding (international name: Noru) made landfall on the Philippine landmass late Sunday afternoon, after reaching super typhoon category earlier in the morning.