Consumers warned of looming price hikes

by Catherine N. Pillas, BusinessMirror

Posted at Mar 28 2014 09:01 AM | Updated as of Mar 28 2014 05:01 PM

MANILA - The Department of Trade and Industry said it expects an increase in the prices of basic goods because of the recent move of the Confederation of Truckers Association of the Philippines (CTAP) to raise its hauling rates by 50 percent.

At the same time, the department said it was initiating an inquiry into the rate increase, which might lead to the filing of a complaint with the Department of Justice.

“There will be an effect if ganito nga kalaki ’yung pagtaas ng rates ng truckers. But the price increases will vary. If the goods are high-value goods, the transportation cost will probably have little effect, but for low-value goods, this will have a substantial effect,” said Trade Secretary Gregory L. Domingo in a chance interview with reporters at the Sikat Pinoy Food Fair on Wednesday.

“There is a fact-finding process ongoing right now to determine if this 50-percent increase on the hauling rates is reasonable. The sudden rate increase, without consultation from the trade department, it seems, is unreasonable. We might file a complaint with the DOJ, if we find that there’s no basis for the hike,” Domingo added.

The CTAP recently released new guide rates for the carriage of containerized cargoes from the Manila International Container Terminal (MICT)/South Harbor to select points in Metro Manila and Northern and Southern Luzon.

The association earlier said the increase in the hauling rates was the consequence of the prevailing truck ban in Manila, which has effectively delayed the delivery of goods and burdened the truckers with additional operational costs.

The new rates took effect March 15.

According to Domingo, he has already received complaints from manufacturers and affected firms, and consultations with stakeholders were under way.

Domingo revealed that the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza) is set to meet with exporters and lawyer Victorio Mario Dimagiba, director of the DTI’s Consumer Protection Group and affected parties, as well.

The Trade chief added that the reasonable increase for the hauling rates should be between 10 percent and 15 percent, but would wait for official results of the fact-finding process before filing a complaint before the DOJ.

Domingo added that a proper consultation with concerned agencies should have been held before the increases were implemented.

“There should be results within a month,” the Trade chief said.

Should the hauling-rate increase be found unjustified, the case would go against the Anti-Competition Policy, as the move appears to be cartel activity, added Domingo.