MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) has ordered a price freeze on 218 essential medicines and medical supplies as affected communities in the provinces of Batangas and Cavite reel from Taal Volcano's eruption on Sunday, January 12.
In a memorandum released Tuesday, January 14, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III ordered a price freeze on essential analgesics, anti-allergics, anticonvulsants, antibiotics, andibacterial agents, and other medicines and supplies, citing DOH's mandate under Republic Act No.7581 to "monitor and regulate drug prices [and] ensure that consumers are adequately protected against profiteering, hoarding, and cartels" during times of calamity.
Though the DOH memorandum does not spell out the "areas affected by the volcanic eruption," the law says price control is automatically imposed whenever an "area is proclaimed or declared a disaster area of under a state of calamity."
The provincial government of Batangas declared a state of calamity Monday, January 13, a day after Taal started erupting. The majority of the over 40,000 evacuees came from the province. Cavite also declared a state of calamity on Wednesday, January 15. Around 15,000 people from Batangas are now temporarily staying in Cavite.
Here is a copy of the memorandum, as well as the list of essential medicines and medical supplies from the DOH:
Included in the list are N95 masks, which according to the memo must be sold for at most P105 only. Regular surgical face masks, based on the same list, must be sold for at most P8 only.
People who violate the price control provision may face between one to 10 years in prison, or be fined between P5,000 and P1 million.
President Rodrigo Duterte had ealrier said he wanted a price limit on face masks after reports of people hiking up prices of the said protective gear. Concerned Filipinos took to social media Monday to express frustration over people taking advantage of the calamity to make a profit out of the protective gear, particularly the N95 masks, whose supplies had run thin after reports of ashfall spreading to Calabarzon and Metro Manila.
The DOH said Tuesday that there was no need for people in Metro Manila to use the more sophisticated face mask, as surgical face masks would be enough to protect people from the small amounts of ashfall that reached the capital region. University of the Philippines meteorologist Gerry Bagtasa even said that Taal's volcanic activity had little impact on Metro Manila's air quality. – Rappler.com