An administration lawmaker pushed [on 13 August 2010] for the inclusion of bottled drinking water in the list of “basic necessities” under The Price Act, to protect the public against hoarding and profiteering during severe shortages, calamities and similar emergencies.
“Due to harsh climate change, the lack of essential water resources in general and safe drinking water in particular is bound to worsen in the months ahead,” Pasig City Rep. Roman Romulo said in a statement.
Whenever clean water becomes scarce due to a prolonged dry spell, or as an offshoot of widespread flooding, bottled drinking water would be highly susceptible to illegal price manipulation, he said.
Romulo filed House Bill 2262 that proposed to include bottled water in the list of basic necessities under Republic Act 7581, or The Price Act.
Products classified as such under the law are protected against hoarding, profiteering and cartelization.
At present, the law’s list of basic necessities is limited to rice; corn; bread; fresh, dried and canned fish and other marine products; fresh pork, beef and poultry; fresh eggs; fresh and processed milk; fresh vegetables; root crops; coffee; sugar; cooking oil; salt; laundry soap; detergents; firewood; charcoal; candles; and vital drugs as classified by the health department.
Under The Price Act, Romulo said prices of basic necessities are automatically frozen at prevailing prices whenever a locality is declared a disaster area, under a state of calamity, under an emergency, under martial law, or in a state of rebellion.
He said the President, upon the recommendation of the National Price Coordinating Council, may also impose a ceiling on any basic necessity under certain conditions.
Also under the law, Romulo said government, using a special buffer fund, may procure, purchase, import or stockpile any basic necessity and devise ways to distribute them for sale at reasonable prices in areas where there is insufficient supply, or a need to effect changes in prevailing prices.
Despite the Clean Water Act of 2004, Romulo lamented that one in five households nationwide still do not have access to safe water. As a result, he said bottled water has become a basic necessity.
“Bottled water is no longer a luxury. Even in depressed communities, many families have to habitually buy bottled water, especially for use by infants, children, and nursing mothers,” he said.
Based on a survey conducted by his office, bottled water retail prices now range from P7 to P15.25 per 500 milliliter bottle, depending on whether it is purified or distilled.
Six-liter bottles cost from P63.50 to P74.50 each, while five-gallon bottles for dispensers cost as much as P315 each.
Government aims to increase access to safe water to 86.5 percent of all households by 2015 from the current 80.1 percent, Romulo said.
Source: Paolo Romero, Philippine Star, 14 Aug 2010