By Eileen Mencias
Major drug store chains have pooled their stocks of face masks and brought them to stores in the Calabarzon, which has been affected by the Taal Volcano eruption.
The Department of Trade and Industry spoke with local suppliers and major drug store chains such as Mercury Drug, Watsons, and Southstar Drug to ensure the supply of face masks in areas affected by the ashfall.
“At the interim, current inventory in their branches and warehouses in non-affected areas will be distributed to their stores in CALABARZON and Metro Manila while waiting for the arrival of new stocks,” DTI said.
Foreign suppliers were also contacted by the DTI to immediately send stocks to the country,” the agency added.
DTI asked retailers to “refrain from unreasonably increasing the prices of N95, surgical and other similar masks.”
It also sent teams around Metro Manila, Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, and Quezon to monitor the prices of face masks as people scrambled to buy to protect themselves.
N95 masks are being sold for P120 to P150 a piece while surgical masks which used to cost P1 are now sellling for P4 apiece.
“While we recognize that the N95, surgical, and other similar masks as medical supplies are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Health (DOH), the DTI readily dispersed its teams to monitor the prices and supply of these masks to assist the DOH and the consumers,” DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez said.
Face masks are not basic commodities that the DTI can impose price caps on but it can go after those who are profiteering from it if they sell them at 20% higher than the prevailing market price.