Go to government: Continue, strengthen consumer protection

Cecille Suerte Felipe - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Bong Go appealed to the government for continued and strengthened protection for consumers as key sectors in the economy reopen, allowing some businesses to operate at a larger capacity in light of the ongoing efforts to overcome the COVID-19 crisis.

“While other sectors of the economy are opening gradually, I hope we continue to strengthen the protection of consumers to ease their burden during crisis,” Go said. “Our consumers need protection since most of them have limited income these days.”

While making sure that there is enough supply of essential goods and services in the country, Go reminded the government to further intensify regulations on commodities, especially basic goods, to ensure that businesses do not take advantage of the current public health emergency.

Last June 12, Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez said the department will be more closely monitoring the prices of goods and services sold online and ensure that buyers are protected from profiteering and other fraudulent business practices. This came after the DTI anticipated transition to the “new normal,” leading to increased use of the digital platform for commerce. Lopez expects that online transactions for small and medium enterprises will likely increase from 10 percent to 80 percent.

DTI is presently providing free webinars, such as the “Making Your Business Digital,” for small businesses on how to effectively and safely conduct business online. Topics also include widening target market reach and digital payments. The department also maintains a four-digit hotline 1348 where consumers and the general public may report any complaint about price and quality of goods and services sold and bought online.

“Definitely we have to check on this business which is expected to further grow. So there’s consumer protection, price monitoring… even online we make sure that the products being sold will have the prices indicated... This is the sector that will continue to grow,” Lopez said.

To ensure the best prices for both agricultural producers and consumers, Go earlier asked the Department of Agriculture to strengthen its programs, such as Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita Marketing Program.

These programs establish a direct link between farmers/fisherfolk and the consuming public, ensuring that farmers get the best prices for their goods, while providing affordable, safe and nutritious produce to Filipino consumers. Go added that these programs aid in ensuring food security in the country amid the pandemic.

“We have seen how the pandemic broke the global supply chains of the food sector. Now is the time to ensure that we are food self-reliant and to reduce our dependence on global trade when it comes to food. Now, more than ever, we need to promote and support food security and agriculture in the country,” he said.

Meanwhile, concerned government agencies continue to implement price controls to prevent traders and businesses from taking advantage of the COVID-19 emergency.

DA’s Bantay Presyo Task Force, pursuant to Republic Act 7581 or the Price Act, continues to conduct price monitoring operations in all regions and issues notices of violations to retailers found to be overpricing.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources also conducted price monitoring operations in 122 markets from May 27 to June 2.

Go explained that for the economy to recover, consumer rights and welfare must be upheld as they are the main drivers of the economy.

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