AGRICULTURE Secretary William Dar yesterday warned traders, retailers and hoarders that they will face arrest and charges will be filed against them once caught violating the “Price Act.”
Dar issued the warning after many retailers still do not follow the suggested retail price (SRP) and price freeze on agri-fishery products despite repeated appeal.
He said the government is serious to apprehend and file cases against them if they continue to take advantage of their countrymen particularly during this state of national emergency.
“While strong efforts are being done to hasten the movement of farm and fishery products to stabilize supply and prices, those who violate the "Price Act" will be dealt with accordingly,” Dar stressed.
He disclosed that they are strengthening the Bantay Presyo Task Force (BPTF) to monitor prices of basic agricultural commodities, enforce the suggested retail price (SRP) policy, and go against cartels, hoarders and profiteers.
“With a stronger bantay-presyo task force, we hope to apprehend erring retailers, unscrupulous traders and hoarders, and file appropriate charges against them for violating the Price Act or R.A. 7581,” he added.
The Price Act protects consumers by stabilizing the prices of basic necessities and prime commodities, and by prescribing measures against undue price increases during emergency situations, natural occurrences or man-made disasters.
Further, the price freeze policy is contained under a joint memorandum circular forged by the DA, Department of Trade and Industry, and the Department of Health.
The price freeze covers all persons, including those who sell through the internet or other media. It sets a price ceiling for basic commodities “should the existence or effects of COVID-19 continue to persist beyond the 60-day period."
The Bantay-Presto task force is composed of three teams, namely:
• Price monitoring. It is tasked to conduct regular monitoring of prices and supply of agricultural commodities throughout the food supply chain, from the farm and fishing ground to various markets.
The team will also analyze price trends, provide basis for establishing SRP or price ceilings, develop a data system on prices, identify and investigate causes of market and price irregularities, and identify Price Act violations and violators,
• Enforcement. It is tasked to issue a letter of inquiry (LOI) to retailers and traders found violating the SRP. It serves as a fact-finding unit that documents proof of violation, and submits its report to the adjudication team.
• Adjudication. If it finds prima facie evidence against SRP violators, hoarders and profiteers, it will file an appropriate case against them before the proper court.
Violators of the Price Act will be fined between P5,000 and P2 million and face imprisonment between five and 15 years.