By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

The Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC), the trading arm of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), has been tasked to procure 5 million pieces of face masks to ensure sufficient stocks as demand continued to rise as Filipinos scamper for supply of the protective medical device on fear of the novel coronavirus (nCoV).

LOPEZ RAMON DTI - DTI to import face masks

Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez

Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said he has already directed PITC to start canvassing for the purchase of 5 million pieces of face masks.

He has also coordinated with the Department of Health (DOH) if they can fund the purchase of face mask and distribute it for free.

But if PITC is the one funding the importation, PITC will also sell the product to the retailers based on the suggested retail prices (SRP). He said that PITC will determine where they can source the face masks.

Med Tech, the only local producer of face masks located in Bataan, has an inventory of 50,000 pieces. Lopez said that Med Tech is going to ship N95 face masks from Taiwan and to supply 1.2 million surgical masks from its Bataan facility.

Prior to the nCoV, there had been tightness in local supply of face masks due to the ashfall following the eruption of Taal Volcano.

Amid reports of overpricing of face masks, the DOH has set an SRP price range of ₱45-₱105 for the N95 mask, depending on the brand. For the ordinary surgical mask, the price is from P1 to P8 apiece. Safety goggles carry an SRP of ₱30-₱55 per unit.

Meanwhile, the DTI has already issued Notice of Violations (NOVs) to 12 stores out of 17 monitored for profiteering in the sale of face of face masks. The violation carries a penalty of ₱5,000 to ₱2 million. Profiteering occurs when a product is priced 10 percent higher than its prevailing price. These establishments were given 48 hours to explain.

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