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Castelo: Arrest medicine hoarders, price manipulators

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By Billy Begas

House Assistant Majority Leader and Quezon City Rep. Precious Hipolito Castelo on Thursday urged the law enforcers to run after and arrest hoarders and price manipulators of medicines especially those used to treat COVID-19 symptoms.

Castelo made the statement in the wake of reports that there is hoarding of fever drug paracetamol and people are stocking up on this medicine. Fever is a common symptom of COVID-19.

She pointed out that there are laws, regulations, and even local ordinances prohibiting hoarding and price manipulation of drugs and other important consumer products.

“The concerned authorities should enforce these to protect the interest and welfare of our people, especially the poor. Hoarding denies the poor access to essential products like medicines and increases the prices of these commodities,” she said.

Castelo said enforcement should be a combined effort of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Health (DOH), Philippine National Police (PNP), and local government units (LGUs).

She added that the role of LGUs like Quezon City is particularly critical since they could suspend or revoke the business permits of establishments that hoard or manipulate the prices of products or engage in activities in restraint of trade.

At the same time, Castelo urged the government and manufacturers to ensure enough supply of COVID-19 medicines.

“The best antidote to hoarding and price manipulation is sufficient supply,” she stressed.

Castelo recalled that during the early stages of the pandemic, businesses and the rich hoarded personal protective items like face masks and face shields, sending the prices of these products sky-high.

Only when enough supply was brought in did prices go down, prompting hoarders to unload their stockpile even at a loss, Castelo added.