EDITORIAL – Profiting from suffering
Pricing of consumer goods follows the law of supply and demand. But there is also such a thing as profiteering at the expense of public suffering. This is what is happening amid the problems generated by the ongoing unrest of Taal Volcano.
After Taal’s phreatic explosion produced giant plumes of volcanic fragments last Sunday, ash rained down on surrounding areas and was blown by the wind all the way to Metro Manila. The explosion, which volcanologists have warned could be a prelude to a powerful eruption, blanketed much of Batangas as well as Tagaytay City and other parts of Cavite with thick layers of ash, prompting mass evacuations and turning many areas into virtual ghost towns.
The ashfall triggered a rush to procure facemasks, particularly the N95 whose fibers are small enough to keep out even harmful microorganisms. The surge in demand for the masks was almost as quickly followed by a spike in prices.
So the public can only rejoice over reports that the government is putting a cap on the prices not only of facemasks but also of some 200 drugs and essential medical supplies. Authorities have also started going after stores found to be selling masks at unreasonably high prices.
At the same time, the government and various civic groups have started giving away masks for free to residents of the areas hardest hit by the ashfall, and who continue to face a serious threat from Taal Volcano.
During natural calamities, people should be drawing together to assist the victims instead of preying on them. It’s a tragedy that the government has to move in to prevent people from profiteering in this period of emergency.