DTI chief ramps up price watch on school supplies, rice

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Fred Pascual conducted a heightened school supplies price monitoring and enforcement operation in Divisoria on 17 August 2023.

Following the release of the latest “Gabay sa Pamimili ng School Supplies” along with the Department of Education’s (DepEd) “Balik Eskwela” program, the team, organized by the Fair Trade Enforcement Bureau (FTEB), conducted a surprise monitoring operation to inspect actual prices of school supplies categorized as prime commodities.

Secretary Pascual said, “We conducted an intensified price monitoring for school supplies to make sure that establishments are following the price guide we issued last month. We want to make sure that parents who will come here to buy school supplies for their children in preparation for the upcoming school year will not fall victims of profiteering and other unjust sales practices.”

The team inspected stores in Divisoria that sell school supplies, particularly those offering items listed in the Gabay sa Pamimili or price guide for school supplies, such as specific brands of notebooks (composition, spiral, and writing), pad papers (Grades 1-4 and intermediate), pencils, ballpoint pens, crayons, erasers, sharpeners, and rulers.

Twenty-two (22) of the 23 stores inspected conformed with the price guide. Meanwhile, the DTI called the attention of one (1) retail store upon noticing a school supply item priced higher than the price guide and mandated it to submit a written explanation within three (3) days from receipt of the letter.

Further, Secretary Pascual stressed, “I gave orders to our Regional and Provincial Offices to conduct school supplies price monitoring in various provinces in the country prior to the opening of the school year. We are conducting this nationwide.”

“Aside from this, let me also reiterate on the current price of rice, DTI received an order from the President to monitor its market price in coordination with the DA. We are now monitoring following said order and are working with the DA in managing the price of rice,” he added.

Republic Act No. 7581, as amended by R.A. 10623, or the Price Act mandates the DTI and other implementing agencies, such as the Departments of Agriculture (DA), Health (DOH),  Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and Energy (DOE), to ensure the availability of basic necessities and prime commodities (BNPCs) at reasonable prices at all times without denying legitimate businesses a fair return on investment.

Other than prices, the DTI also inspected school supplies’ conformance with the Philippine National Standards (PNS), particularly on product specifications for office and school supplies that provide safety and quality requirements of certain products to ensure reliability and safe usage, and compliance with other Fair Trade Laws (FTLs).

Accordingly, the DTI team also inspected school supplies items’ product specification, markings, and labels.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), led by FDA South Luzon Cluster Director Arnold G. Alindada was present during the operation. The FDA conducted “test-buy” of some school supplies, such as crayons and watercolors, which will be subjected to further analysis, particularly of the chemical content/s thereof.

According to the Consumer Act of the Philippines (RA 7394), manufacturers, importers, distributors, and retailers shall be liable for damages caused to consumers by defective and unsafe products as well as for insufficient or inadequate information on the use and hazards.

With this, Secretary Fred Pascual urged consumers to diligently check if school supplies are FDA-approved to ensure that materials used are safe for their children.

The Department engages in a campaign against uncertified items in the market, including the enforcement of technical regulations mandating compliance with Philippine Standard Certification Mark Schemes, particularly Department Administrative Order No. 02, Series of 2007.

The DTI enjoins consumers to report retailers, distributors, and manufacturers that sell basic necessities above their SRPs or uncertified items, through the Consumer Care Hotline at DTI (1-384) or consumercare@dti.gov.ph.