As Filipinos troop to groceries to stock up on essentials amid swirling coronavirus fears, Malacañang Palace warned the public today to refrain from hoarding, adding that those found guilty of it will be prosecuted.
“The Office of the President hereby gives warning to those hoarding vital commodities, which create a hike in the prices, as well as selling them beyond their regular prices, that their actions will be dealt with accordingly in pursuance of public safety and order,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement sent out to the media today.
“Those who unscrupulously take advantage of the health crisis will also be arrested and dealt with in accordance with law,” he threatened.
A report from television program 24 Oras said that bottles of disinfectant alcohol, canned goods, vegetables, and meat products have almost been wiped out from a Quezon City grocery. This, despite the Department of Trade and Industry’s order to retailers that customers should be allowed to buy just two bottles of disinfectant each, CNN Philippines reports.
A shopper told Coconuts Manila that she witnessed panic-buying on Tuesday night at Landmark Makati. “People bought Lysol, canned goods, tissue, [and even] Yakult! [It was] pandemonium,” she said. The shopper left Landmark and went to a nearby grocery, The Marketplace, but found that it too was sold out of most essential products.
Panic-buying has also been reported in Bulacan, Pangasinan, Pampanga, Davao City, Pasig City, and Zamboanga City.
Meanwhile, Panelo asked the media to refrain from sensational reports to prevent the public from panicking. He also urged the public not to post negative comments online.
He said netizens’ “hate messages or posts in social media channels and other platforms will do more harm than good, especially during this time, which should be seen as an opportunity for the Filipinos to unite in the face of the health threat.”
“We similarly ask media outlets to refrain from exaggerating or amplifying reports that may only affect the mindset of the public and instead help in disseminating helpful tips on how to prevent the spread of the virus,” he added.
On Wednesday, Panelo told consumers to buy only what they need, and that panic-buying “would only result in undue hoarding and price increases.”
The panic buying comes after Metro Manila saw a sudden spike in coronavirus cases this week. Last night, the Department of Health announced that a 67-year-old woman, case PH35, died at the Manila Doctors Hospital in Ermita, becoming the first Filipino to succumb to COVID-19. The country has reported 49 COVID-19 cases so far, excluding Filipinos who have fallen ill overseas.