The national government is undertaking measures to ensure that prices of basic commodities, particularly food items, will not spike as the holiday inches closer amid the prevailing coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said Sunday.

Even if the government has lifted the price freeze on goods, Nograles said the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will continue monitoring the prices of basic commodities to prevent price manipulation, hoarding, and other instances where unscrupulous individuals can take advantage of artificial shortages of goods.

“The DTI is monitoring the prices of not just food, but all products. Prices were initially ordered frozen at the onset of the pandemic, but even with price controls lifted the government continues to be conscious of the need to keep an eye on the prices of goods in the market,” he said in a Facebook Live on Saturday night.

To recall, the price freeze on basic goods was imposed in March almost coinciding with the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila and eventually nationwide.

DTI announced that the prices of basic necessities returned to the standard retail prices (SRPs) last May.

Aside from monitoring the prices of food staples like rice, Nograles said the government was also improving food production to ensure adequate food supplies during the holidays.

“To achieve what we call food price stability, we need to assure food production. To ensure food production, we need to promote helping the agriculture sector — farmers and fisherfolk,” he said.

He said that among the government’s priorities is to guarantee that food production will be “uninterrupted” and supply chains will “unimpeded” to ensure adequate supplies and access to the market.

“If these measures are in place, we can prevent price fluctuations that can hurt Filipino consumers,” said Nograles, also chair of the government’s Zero Hunger Task Force.

Nograles also cited the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) e-Kadiwa program, a digital platform system that brings safe, healthy, and fresh farm produce direct from merchants to consumers in Metro Manila.

The DA and DTI’s DELIVER-e program, a USAID-supported initiative, may also help Filipino farmers transport their produce to key markets, he added.

DELIVER-e program is a digital platform that connects Luzon farmers to buyers through an innovative, end-to-end electronic market system that addresses supply chain gaps as a result of quarantine restrictions in the country.

Since the program’s launch in early April, the USAID said the DELIVER-e “has enabled sales of more than 156,000 kilograms of fresh fruits and vegetables through its first two e-marketplaces, Gulay ng Bayan and City Farms Philippines, and facilitated the movement of fresh produce to institutional and individual buyers in Metro Manila.”

USAID worked closely with the DA, DTI, and the private sector, led by Philippine logistics technology startup Insight Supply Chain Solutions, to establish DELIVER-e. (PNA)