DTI to allow higher selling price of face masks

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The Department of Trade and Industry will soon allow vendors to sell face masks at higher prices amid rising cost of raw materials.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 7) — Stores and vendors would soon be allowed to sell face masks at higher prices, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said Friday.

From the current suggested retail price (SRP) of ₱1 to ₱8 per piece, Lopez said the ceiling price for disposable surgical masks would be raised to ₱16.

"The cost of masks abroad have gone up because of the raw materials," Lopez told reporters at the sidelines of a media briefing.

Authorities had to regulate the price of these protective gear after opportunistic vendors jacked up retail costs in the aftermath of Taal volcano's eruption, which brought heavy ashfall in Batangas and Cavite and even reached parts of Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

Strong demand allowed some stores to sell face masks by triple or even more, especially for the more secure N95 masks. The novel coronavirus global outbreak has revived demand for these masks, with most stores running low on stock as even foreign sources secure their local supplies.

More than 630 people worldwide have died due to the novel coronavirus, which has also infected over 31,000 people, CNN International reported.

Lopez said that some drugstores have refused to purchase from a local producer of masks, as it was selling the products at ₱8 each — leaving no room for these businesses to make a profit under the current SRP.

"₱12 to ₱16 range will be our projected SRP — that, we might announce soon," the official said.

Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said separately that a local manufacturer that exports masks has promised to increase production and allot 500,000 masks each week for domestic use.

Lopez added that some agricultural products will also be subject to price caps, but these would be announced by the Department of Agriculture.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Sandra Zialcita contributed to this report.