Junior Economic Society of UST
A society dedicated and guided by values of courage, passion, excellence, inclusion, and compassion towards forming and developing economically competent and knowledgeable individuals for a more progressive future.
Junior Economist Society’s mission is to encourage and hone young individuals to develop critical thinking through social awareness regarding economic issues and activities. The organization aims to provide a stepping stone for the youth by improving their skills and knowledge to come up with pertinent solutions that can help understand and resolve economic problems.
Atty. Victorio Mario A. Dimagiba
Founder & President
Laban Konsyumer Inc.
National Capital Region, 1100
HYGIENE PRODUCTS: THE NEW LUXURY
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), a highly contagious pandemic originated in several wet markets in Wuhan, China, has almost reached up to seventy (70) countries in the world at present (Kandola, 2020). This virus may infect others through person-to-person contact with saliva droplets, coughs, and sneezes (WHO, 2020). In fact, the number of people who tested positive for the disease grows exponentially every day resulting in stricter policies implemented in every country. To prevent further infestation, health practitioners promote proper hygiene and sanitation through proper hand washing, utilization of seventy-percent (70%) alcohol, wearing of face masks, avoidance to crowded areas, and observance of physical distancing (WHO, 2020). Because of the fear to be infected by the disease, panic buying of basic commodities and hygiene products can be observed. With this, the world as a natural capitalist market, has taken the chance to sabotage the economic stability by increasing the prices of these products. In fact, Philippines has recorded two and six tenths percent (2.6%) inflation rate last February 2020 which decreases the purchasing power of the people causing these basic commodities to become less accessible for people belonging to lower socio-economic classes (Vera, B. O. de, & Lalu, G. P., 2020). According to Horowitz (2020), the enhanced community quarantine affects the economy as it faces continuous recession because of force majeure on business operations leading to non-compensation of employees. Thus, the Junior Economist Society strongly believes that price increase of basic commodities and hygiene products is illegal, avaricious, and unjust.
It should be noted that by practicing proper hygiene and sanitation, alcohols, masks, and sanitizers are the most important things that an individual should have during this calamity. Relatively, China, being the world’s largest producer of these products, faces scarcity resulting in a global imbalance of demand and supply for these items (Contractor, 2020). In the Philippines, masks started to run out prior to the pestilence of COVID-19 due to Taal Volcano Eruption. Because of the limited supply and its suppliers, monopolists started to significantly increase its price. From one to two pesos (PHP 1.00 – PHP 2.00) per piece of surgical mask, it became forty pesos and above (PHP 40.00). An N95 mask which originally costs around forty-five pesos to one hundred five pesos (PHP 45.00 – PHP 105.00), can now be bought for around two hundred pesos (PHP 200.00) (Lopez, M. L., 2020). According to the Department of Trade and Industry Undersecretary Ruth Castelo (2020), the price increase which is considered a case of profiteering by taking advantage of the situation happened last volcanic eruption is the same situation that the market faces at present.
Moreover, based on a CNN Philippines report, after selling overpriced masks, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) made action by suing twelve (12) stores in Bambang, a popular hub for medical supplies, which took advantage of the market situation by increasing its price from its reasonable amount for profitability (Cabalza, Subingsubing, & Canivel, 2020). This is a breach to the Republic Act No. 7581, also called the “Price Act”, wherein consumers are protected by ensuring that the prices of basic necessities and commodities are stable through prescribing a course of actions in opposition to undue price increases in the course of emergency. The act of increasing the price of masks is just taking advantage of the situation to maximize sales, so as discriminating the marginalized leaving them unprepared for the calamity (Mohammed, 2017). Furthermore, profitability is not an excuse especially in times of crisis wherein empathy and understanding must prevail. This mindset has become very unhealthy since this results in benefiting the few over the many. Hence, human life must always be the main priority and profit should not be prioritized over human life (Profit should not come at the Cost of Human Life, n.d,).
In the same way, demand for rubbing alcohol has also proliferated because of COVID-19. The only difference between the increases in the demands for alcohol and masks is the reaction of price. Since there is a stricter regulation for alcohol, the price remains the same. The only problem encountered with alcohol is hoarding. People massively buy alcohol to the extent that supermarkets face shortage and individuals may record surplus. In return, extra alcohols are being sold online. Since the number of local suppliers became limited, from the suggested retail price of sixty-one pesos to seventy-four pesos and twenty-five centavos (PHP 61.00 – PHP 74.25) the online price of a two hundred fifty milliliters (250 mL) alcohol ranges from one hundred forty pesos to two hundred fifty pesos (PHP 140.00 – PHP 250.00) (Caliwan, C. L., 2020). In contrast, online sellers claim it is acceptable to increase prices in online platforms of selling because no policy prohibits them not to do so considering that they are just alternative modes of acquiring alcohols (Gunia, A., 2020). However, the law excuses no one and this clearly violates the Republic Act 7581 (Price Act) and the recently mandated DTI Memorandum Circular No.20-07 “Anti-Hoarding and Anti-Panic Buying”. Even though they are just mere alternative, the act of hoarding and selling it online for a prestige price is irrefutably unjust and avaricious. The strategy is a result of greed and discriminatory thinking, letting those members of lower classes not to access vital items in surviving this calamity leading them to suffer more.
Nevertheless, the price increase in hygiene products is not an issue of those who can buy at the maximum price may survive. Together with the rise of the global pandemic is the colonization of capitalist disease. Instead of helping others in the midst of a crisis, people are taking advantage of the situation to make money. Price increase should be prevented immediately to let the Filipinos across socio-economic classes to conquer this global battle as one. In this regard, the Junior Economist Society suggests that there should be a national price ceiling standard for these hygiene products. In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the government regulated the prices of different face masks in the range that even the poor may have the capacity to buy (Povera, 2020). The Philippines may also implement this policy by setting an average price that is not that hard for the low earners to reach. It is important that the price is all-binding so that every Filipino will be equipped with safety gears in combating the virus. In terms of hoarding, the government has already implemented a two-bottle only policy, wherein every family may only purchase two bottles of alcohol in every transaction in supermarkets to prevent excessive buying of rubbing alcohol. It could further be improved by monitoring the alcohol consumption of the family through booklets or checklists to avoid repetitive daily purchases. Lastly, the government should defer tax collections and value-added tax on goods. This movement has been implemented in Australia, Denmark, and Greece for the purpose of letting the consumers to allocate their money on buying basic necessities needed to survive in this global pandemic (Enache, Asen, & Bunn, 2020). Since profit is the major reason why retailers increase their prices, removal and delay of taxes may help them become profitable without overpricing their products. Also, it will help the consumers especially those part of the workforces to at least increase their cash-on-hand for they will be able to utilize and to maximize their money based on their needs during this calamity.
Junior Economist Society believes that the said advocacies will significantly aid and benefit the Filipinos in this time of crisis. Having a national standard price ceiling will administer the businesses to avoid overpricing of goods which are needed in this kind of situation. Herewith, consumers will be able to acquire goods without concerning the increase in prices. It also gives opportunity for the people to budget their needs now that many of the Filipinos are incapable of generating income. Despite the decrease in their taxes, businesspersons will still be able to generate profit while providing the needs of their fellowmen. With the help of the government, implementing a regular price monitoring will ensure that these businesses will follow the standard price ceiling and disobedience to this will result in a grievous consequence. Hence, there will be strict compliance in a way setting discipline both to people and the businessperson.
This global pandemic affects both the wealthy and the needy. No one is exempted in the recession effect of this crisis. Thus, COVID 19 is more than just a health concern but also an economical issue that must be addressed as it significantly affects the capacity of Filipinos to purchase basic commodities and hygiene products. Junior Economist Society is firm with its stand against price increase as this violates not just the organization’s value of compassion and inclusion but also the law.
Junior Economist Society
Bea Anne Margarett B. Abiad
Trisha Clarisse G. Borbon
James Benedict G. Cuesta
Christian Angel L. Gonzales
Kenyon Lincoln C. Lim
Alyssa Marie G. Narida
Cabalza, D., Subingsubing, K., & Canivel, R. S. C. (2020). Face masks disappear from Metro Manila stores. Retrieved from https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1212685/face-masks-disappear-from-metro-manila-stores
Caliwan, C. L. (2020, March 20). 3 nabbed for hoarding, selling overpriced alcohol. Retrieved from https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1097315
CNN Philippines (2020, March, 22). Another round of big-time fuel price rollback this week amid COVID-19 quarantine. Retrieved from https://www.cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/3/22/fuel-price-rollback.html
Contractor, S. (2020, March 19). Chinese Automaker BYD Is Now The Largest Producer Of Face Masks. Retrieved from https://auto.ndtv.com/news/chinese-automaker-is-now-the-largest-producer-of-face-masks-2197566
Enache, C., Asen, E., & Bunn, D. (2020, March 25). Tracking Fiscal Measures Around the World During the Coronavirus Outbreak. Retrieved from https://taxfoundation.org/coronavirus-country-by-country-responses/
Gunia, A. (2020, February 27). The Global Shortage of Medical Masks Won’t Be Easing Soon. Retrieved from https://time.com/5785223/medical-masks-coronavirus-covid-19/
Horowitz, J. (2020, March 16). The global coronavirus recession is beginning. Retrieved from https://edition.cnn.com/2020/03/16/economy/global-recession-coronavirus/index.html
Kandola, A. (2020, March 17). Coronavirus Cause: Origin and How it Spreads. Retrieved from Medical News Today: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/coronavirus-causes#origin
Lopez, M. L. (2020). DTI finds 12 stores in Manila selling overpriced face masks. Retrieved from https://cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/1/15/DTI-12-stores-overpriced-masks.html
Mohammed, R. (2017, September 11). Why Businesses Should Lower Prices During Natural Disasters. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2017/09/why-businesses-should-lower-prices-during-natural-disasters
Povera, A. (2020, March 21). Covid-19: Govt sets new face mask ceiling price, bans export. Retrieved from https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2020/03/576681/covid-19-govt-sets-new-face-mask-ceiling-price-bans-export
Profit should not come at the Cost of Human Life. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.astoundingelements.com/profit-should-not-come-at-the-cost-of-human-life.html
Vera, B. O. de, & Lalu, G. P. (2020, March 5). February inflation 2.6 percent but PH braces for price spikes due to COVID-19. Retrieved from Inquirer.net: https://business.inquirer.net/291877/ph-braces-for-higher-inflation-due-to-covid-19
WHO. (2020). Coronavirus. Retrieved from World Health Organization : https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus#tab=tab_1