Pacquiao thumbs down restrictions on sari-sari stores selling meds

Pacquiao thumbs down restrictions on sari-sari stores selling meds
Sinabi ni dating Davao Del Norte Governor at kasalukuyang chairman Emeritus ng multi sectoral group na Angat Pinoy party-list na dapat na tulungan mula sa pambansang pondo ang SMEs lalo na ang ‘mom-and-pop’ sari-sari at convenience stores para maibalik ang ekonomiya sa pre-pandemic level.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Presidential aspirant Sen. Manny Pacquiao rejected proposals to ban small community stores or sari-sari stores, from selling over-the-counter drugs, pointing out that not everyone has access to the medicines they need.

Pacquiao said this in response to the recent call of the Department of the Interior and Local Government for local governments to restrict sari-sari stores from selling over-the-counter medicines without any permit. 

In a statement sent to reporters, Pacquiao slammed the crackdown as being "anti-poor and very impractical for rural folks," calling it an added burden for small store owners who still have to pay to secure permits considering the situation among poor Filipinos living in the countryside.

"Let's consider that not everybody is near a drug store. In other areas, towns are ten to twenty kilometers away from a pharmacy, and then not all of them are 24 hours open," he said in Filipino.

"Not everyone has a car to go to town to buy medicine at night. Also, most of them only buy retail so maybe the fare or fuel consumed is more expensive than the medicine they buy," he also said. 

At President Rodrigo Duterte's public address last week, the Food and Drug Administration reported that from January 13 to February 11, it received 185 reports of sari-sari stores illegally selling medicines. Of this, 78 were guilty while nine stores were retailing fake medicines including COVID-19 medicines.

DILG Secretary Eduardo Año said that he directed the Philippine National Police to immediately arrest violators who still persist in selling medicines, especially fake ones, despite the lack of authority to sell them.

But Pacquiao on Sunday said that sari-sari stores are the most accessible source of medicines needed for ordinary ailments like flu, influenza, diarrhea or stomach ache, and body pains.

"Over-the-counter medicines which are also known as nonprescription medicines are medicines that you can buy without a prescription. They are safe and effective for ordinary ailments," his statement read. 

The former boxer-turned-legislator said that instead of regulation, an effective crackdown against smuggling should solve concerns about the alleged proliferation of fake medicines.

As a minimum requirement, Pacquiao said sari-sari stores can be required to submit a list of drugs they are selling to their barangays to allow proper monitoring.

The senator, who earlier accused a number of government departments of corruption, said that government officials who are protecting smugglers of counterfeit medicine must be immediately arrested.

"We need to restrict the entry of counterfeit drugs and small miscellaneous stores should not be oppressed. No counterfeit can be sold if no counterfeit can enter the country. We just need to implement our generic law well so that will make cheap but effective drugs accessible to people," he said.

Pacquiao's statements were echoed by senatorial candidate and former Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista in a separate statement issued Sunday calling on the government to be more lenient with sari-sari stores. 

“Why make things difficult for the small entrepreneurs who are doing their communities a big service?...Let’s not further make it difficult for our people to buy the medicines that don’t need prescriptions,” he was quoted as saying in a report by Manila Bulletin.

“Why do we have to complicate it? These sari-sari stores don’t sell prescription drugs or medicines for HIV. They just sell medicines for headaches, fever, cough, colds that are available all over,” he pointed out.

— with reports from Gaea Katreena Cabico




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