The Justice department said Sunday it will prosecute traders and businesses engaging in profiteering and adding to the burden of consumers already reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra made the warning even as he encouraged the public to report to the Department of Trade and Industry those engaging in price gouging when selling face shields and medical supplies needed in the fight against the pandemic.
READ: Go after heartless, greedy profiteers
“Any person who has information on overpricing may report the same to the Department of Trade and Industry, and the DOJ [Department of Justice] will prosecute violators,” Guevarra said in a text message.
He made his statement even as an official said the Trade and Health departments will come up with technical standards for face shields and the proposed pricing for those.
Trade undersecretary Ruth Castelo said her department noticed a sudden spike in the prices of face shields as soon as the government announced their mandatory use, and initially when using public transportation.
READ: Government arrests 2 suspected profiteers
“There should be reasonable prices of face shields. These can be bought online. There are also industrial face shields with heavy-duty features,” Castelo.
From P35 per unit, the prices of face shields have climbed to as high as P80, while some vendors have been selling them for up to P180 each.
The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, meanwhile, has been commissioned to produce up to 50 million reusable cloth face masks within the next four months to help protect the public against the pandemic.
A Cabinet cluster tasked TESDA to make washable face masks that will be distributed to the public for free, according to Aniceto Bertiz III, TESDA deputy director-general for partnerships and linkages.
“We’ve been tasked to mass-produce the face masks based on the required quality standards and at a cost of no more than P15 each,” Bertiz said.
The demand for face shields has been rising following the announcement by the Transport department requiring commuters to wear face shields, aside from facemasks, starting Aug. 15 as additional protection against COVID-19.
Some reports said several groups had criticized the government for imposing the use of face shields and claimed that its use against COVID-19 would be an additional burden to the poor.
The groups suggested that the face shields be given free to the public.
“It is my hope that the government could provide it [face shield] free under the proposed stimulus bill or at least at a subsidized cost,” Guevarra said.
“In the meantime, the Department of Health may set the minimum standards for face shields and let the people do it themselves, or the DTI may set a suggested retail price for those sold by manufacturers.”