With the sudden surge in demand for face masks following the first confirmed 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCov) in the country, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez said the supply shortage shall be temporary.
“Shortage is due to the sudden jump in demand that even their reordered stocks got wiped out immediately,” Lopez told trade reporters in a text message Friday.
He said his department has advised suppliers to order masks “in much bigger quantities.”
“It should be temporary because the supply of a manufactured product can easily be increased, unlike if it were an agricultural product,” Lopez added.
Demand for surgical and N95 masks increased since the Taal Volcano eruption. Demand further jacked up after the Department of Health confirmed the first 2019-nCov here Thursday.
Some drugstores and medical supply stores have run out of stocks of surgical masks.
The suggested retail price (SRP) for surgical masks ranges from PHP1 to PHP8 per piece.
“They (DTI personnel) are monitoring if prices are jacked up. We have intensified monitoring.” Lopez said.
In a related development, consumer advocate Laban Konsyumer, Inc. (LKI) has urged DTI to buy masks in bulk and distribute them to retail outlets at controlled prices.
LKI president Victorio Mario Dimagiba said on Friday the Philippine Trade and Investment Center (PTIC) has done the same when there was a supply issue in medicine, cement, and sugar, among others.
Dimagiba also suggested that mask importers be identified and their warehouses inspected.
“The Bureau of Import Services of DTI can identify mask importers and warehouses’ location. The PNP-CIDG (Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group) can conduct intelligence operation,” he added.
The department should also ensure that masks being sold in the market have passed the quality test, Dimagiba added.
Several pharmacies in Metro Manila were reported with no available supplies of surgical face masks and N95 masks after the government confirmed the first case of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCov) in the country.
A shop in MRT Ayala station was spotted selling surgical masks for P130 for a pack of 10 or P13 per piece, way above the suggested retail price of P1 to P8 per mask.
An online retailer, who declined to be named, also said they cannot get N95 masks from their Chinese supplier as the latter wanted to prioritize its local market, where the virus originated.
In Gen. Santos City, a City Council member plans an inquiry into the “skyrocketing” prices of protective face masks and possible hoarding of supplies by some local businesses in the wake of increasing demand.
City Councilor Franklin Gacal Jr. said on Saturday he has received numerous complaints from residents regarding the sudden increase in prices of face masks and the lack of available supplies in pharmacies and other stores in recent days.
Gacal said it appears that some businesses are taking advantage of the demand for face masks due to the nationwide alert against the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) from China.
Several pharmacies here have posted notices that they have run out of supplies of face masks.
Some establishments that still have supplies have jacked up their prices by up to P20 each for the three-ply surgical mask, which was previously sold at just P3 to P5.
A department store in Gen. Santos City was monitored to be selling ordinary surgical masks at P100 per three-piece pack. Some online sellers are also selling face masks for as high as PHP800 for a box of 50 pieces.
In Iligan City, supplies of surgical and N95 masks are running out here as of Saturday due to the surge of demand from customers caused by the novel Coronavirus (nCoV) scare.
The supply has become apparently scarce that some stores and pharmacies are compelled to put up signs, saying they no longer have stocks. (PNA)