Palawan News file photo.

Prices of basic goods and construction supplies have increased significantly in Puerto Princesa City and Palawan province as victims of Typhoon Odette begin to rebuild their homes, prompting the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to warn that it will sanction businesses found in violation of the Price Act.

This comes after residents of areas impacted by Odette’s onslaught, as well as those who were not, complained about construction supply and food stores abruptly raising their prices.

In Roxas and in Puerto Princesa City, concerns have been lodged over the costs of roofing supplies, such as corrugated metal aluminum sheet, which is allegedly being offered at more than triple its normal P500 price to over P1,000.

Local DTI media relations officer Persival Narbonita urged that sellers of construction materials, in particular, should not take advantage of the people’s already precarious situation as it would be hard for them to recover knowing they already lack sufficient resources.

He stressed retailers and wholesalers should comply with Republic Act (RA) 7581, or the Price Act, which specifies that prices of commodities shall not be increased during times of calamity in the city and province.

“[Ang] advise po sa amin na mag-sampa ng admin case sa stores na malamang merong paglabag sa price freeze,” he added.

“Ini-encourage namin ang mga sellers ng construction materials na dapat maging guide nila ‘yong national pronouncement na under state of calamity na ‘yong MIMAROPA region, tsaka guided din sila [dapat] sa Price Act Law na hindi puwede yung biglaang pagtaas ng bilihin, lalo na ‘yong under ng Price Freeze directive,” Narbonita said in a message to Palawan News on Thursday.

Mayor Dennis Sabando stated on December 23 that around 80 to 90% of houses in 31 barangays have been completely destroyed.

As a result, several businesses have been criticized for increasing their prices unfairly.

A father embraces his child at the shores of Roxas while looking at the destruction caused by Typhoon Odette around him. (Photo by Allen Joshua Rapues)

“[Ang] iba talaga ay nagtataas, pinapuntahan na ng taga DTI at saka ‘yong MEDO (Municipal Economic Development Office), sabi ko puntahan niyo yong nagtataasan, pinuntahan na nila. Wala pa tayong figure,” he said.

However, construction materials and hardware stores throughout the poblacion defended against this claim. They stated that despite increased demand, they maintained the original prices of materials.

“Yero, pako— sa presyo, hindi naman [nagtaas]. Ang [supplies] paubos na,” Melva Misajon said.

The thinner roofing sheets cost P280 and the thicker class is priced at P380, she said. The umbrella nails, on the other hand, are about P130 per kilo.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Palawan said that based on their monitoring in Roxas, those reported markups are old stocks of sellers.

“Base sa monitoring sa mga naka-display na products. Nakausap ko rin ‘yong mga may-ari at in charge ng mga stores at kinonfirm naman nila na price increases (ay) sa mga old stock,” media relations officer Persival Narbonita said.

Narbonita added that DTI is also waiting for the official complaints from consumers for them to issue a letter of inquiry.

“If not justified ‘yong explanation at walang evidences na i-present ay admin case ‘yong kasunod. Need lng namin meron complaint na supported by needed docs like resibo, pictures, etc,” he added.

The department also encourages consumers to reach out for consumer complaints so they can provide immediate action.

“Encourage namin mga sellers ng construction materials na dapat maging guide nila ‘yong national pronouncement na under state of calamity na ‘yong MIMAROPA,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sabando said that they have used the woods from fallen trees as additional material for rebuilding of some of the locals’ houses.

“Kanina, sinamahan ko yong ibang mga tao na kung pupwede, yong mga kahoy na bilog , planted trees na nagtumba. Baka pwede ihingi na lang namin sa mga may-ari at ipamigay sa mga nasalanta,” Sabando said.

On December 22, pursuant to the Price Act, the DTI imposed a 60-day price freeze on all basic necessities in Odette-hit areas that declared states of calamity — MIMAROPA, Regions 6, 7, 8, 10, and Caraga.

Narbonita advised consumers to immediately report businesses that are not adhering to the price freeze to the DTI so they can file administrative cases against them.

Additionally, the Department of Energy (DOE) has enforced a price freeze on domestic liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and kerosene in cities and provinces deemed disaster areas following Typhoon Odette.

Palawan province was placed under a state of calamity on Tuesday, December 21, by virtue of the Provincial Board’s Resolution No. 16377, which was requested by the PDRRMO. Identified towns that were badly devastated by the typhoon include Araceli, Dumaran, Roxas, and San Vicente.

Estimated damage to towns are now at P5.7-billion for Roxas town, and P49-million for San Vicente, according to PIO chief Atty. CJ Cojamco.

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