Consumer representation is crucial, especially now that many of us are still finding our way through this pandemic, lockdown and continuing quarantine. Thus, a National Consumer Affairs Council (NCAC) will be beneficial to the government and will give consumers a voice during these challenging times. It is unfortunate that the NCAC was not constituted in this administration and the consumer group community is not aware of the reasons why. The NCAC could have provided a big boost in empowering consumers with information on consumer products and services, consumer rights and the mechanisms available to enforce those rights, information on new concepts and developments on consumer protection, and general knowledge and awareness necessary for making an informed decision.
Created under Republic Act 7394 (the Consumer Act of the Philippines), the NCAC is composed of representatives from the following government agencies: the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Education, the Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture. It will also include four representatives from consumer organizations who are chosen by the President from among the nominees submitted by the various consumer groups in the Philippines, and two representatives from the business and industry sectors also chosen by the President from among the nominees submitted by the various business organizations. The Council shall be headed and presided by a Chairman who shall be elected by the members from among themselves. He shall establish, with the concurrence of the Council, the policies, procedures, and standards to be followed.
Based on thee same RA 7394, which took effect on 15 July 1992, the government under then President Fidel V. Ramos declared October of every year as Consumer Welfare Month in Proclamation No.1098, Series of 1997. It tasked the NCAC to undertake programs and activities to ensure the successful observance thereof.
The mission of the National Consumers Affairs Council is to improve the management, coordination and effectiveness of consumer programs and policies of the different government agencies and private organizations since the protection of the consuming public against unreasonable price increases or fraudulent practices is a continuing concern of the government.
The Council has several powers and functions. It has the power to rationalize and coordinate the functions of the agencies charged with consumer programs and enforcement of consumer- related laws to the end that an effective, coordinated and integrated system of consumer protection, research and implementation and enforcement of such laws shall be achieved.
The Council will recommend new policies, and legislation or amendments to existing ones, monitor and evaluate implementation of consumer programs and projects and is empowered to take steps to ensure that concerned agencies take, adopt, and enforce necessary measuresto comply with the established priorities, standards and guidelines. The Council will also seek the assistance of government instrumentalities to augment the need for personnel, facilities, and other resourcesto undertake a continuing education and information campaign to provide consumers with the essential information.
I truly believe that there is a need to focus national attention on the role consumers play in the vitality of the economy, and there is necessity to set aside a period during which concerted efforts for the assertion of consumers rights may be thoroughly planned, discussed, and carried out.
This is how a vigorous celebration of the Consumer Welfare Month will raise awareness for our countrymen – both our leaders and our consuming public- of the need to promote dissemination of sound consumer informationon subjects such as complaints and policies affecting consumers and encourage dialogue and cooperation among consumers, business and government as well asbroaden the scope of consumer education by heightening consumer awareness. These concepts are critical in forming a culture of awareness and protection for the Filipino consumer, whose welfare may have beenoverlooked by the government for far too long already.
I wish to recognize at this point the efforts of the pioneering and founding members of NCAC who represented the consumer organizations : Sister Mary John Mananzan, Atty. Zenaida Reyes (+) Lourdes Quezon (+) , Raul Segovia, and more recently , Leonora Del Fierro, Gigi Padilla Chua, Alberta Quinto, Edwin Santiago and Jose Pepito.
I believe there is still time for government to finally step up and allow consumer representatives to participate, and influence the direction of our nation so as to ensurestronger support for consumer welfare and protection of consumer rights. This is even more important , now that Bayanihan 2 and Proclamation No. 1021, has declared a one year state of national calamity.
Vic Dimagiba is President of Laban Konsyumer Inc.
Laban Konsyumer Inc.