The morning session of the National Consumer Affairs Council’s (NCAC) 2015 Consumer Welfare Month Celebration featured award ceremonies for the winners this year’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) BAGWIS, the program that gives due recognition to entrepreneurs who uphold the rights of consumers and practice responsible business.
But there is little doubt that the highlight of the launch of month-long commemoration, themed this year as “Consumer Protection in the ASEAN Economic Community,” were the roundtables and open forums held in the afternoon.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Health-Food and Drug Administration (DOH-FDA), and DTI, in their capacity as ex-officio members of the NCAC, led four simultaneous cluster discussions at the Philippine Trade Training Center at Pasay City last October 1.
Just some of the topics taken up were issues on climate change by the DENR, and energy standards and power saving devices by the DOE.
Perhaps even more relevant were the presentations by the DOH-FDA and the DTI, given this year’s fast-approaching holidays which would, for the first time in the country’s history, fall in the influence of the ASEAN market integration.
As the integration takes full effect, local players will be able to participate in a more inclusive exchange and transition the country into a bigger regional role.
But while the buying public will also have access to a wider marketplace, this will inherently come with exposure to adulterated foods, counterfeit drugs, devices, cosmetics, or toys. These incidents particularly become prevalent during the mad dash of Christmas shopping, when demand is peaked and contraband pirated in.
There are countless stories of products made with high levels of phthalates – a banned chemical compound used to make plastics softer and more pliable – or have tested positive for toxins such as lead.
How the country would uphold and protect Filipino consumer rights and device cross-border redress mechanisms with its ASEAN trade partners should these rights be violated were discussed.
The government officials, representatives of consumer groups and private industries that comprise the NCAC membership, in its role as a consumer watchdog, will have to make sure that imported products are of good quality and safe to use, while still competitively priced.
The NCAC was created by Republic Act No. 7394, or the Consumer Act of the Philippines, to advance the management, coordination and effectiveness of the nation’s consumer programs. Its members regularly engage in discussions that shape policies protecting consumer interests.
Since 1997, October has been designated as Consumer Welfare Month following the enactment of Presidential Proclamation No. 1098 by President Fidel V. Ramos.