(STAR) By Ma. Elisa Osorio - Business groups have expressed alarm over Malacañang’s plan to extend its declaration of a state of calamity for at least a year, with one calling it “an overkill.”

The groups said the plan, if carried out, would spawn more problems like job losses and supply shortage.

“It’s an overkill,” Albert Lim, executive director of the Makati Business Club (MBC), said in a telephone interview. “It is like admitting defeat and inadequacy.”

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) said that its members have already incurred combined losses of up to P1 billion due to tropical storm “Ondoy.”

“There must be a balance between the needs of the consumers and the retailers and the manufacturers,” PCCI president Edgardo Lacson told The STAR.

“If they (businessmen) are asked to hold prices for a year, it might lead to other problems like supply shortage and job losses,” Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) chairman Donald Dee said.

For his part, Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI) president Jesus Arranza said that it is impossible to hold prices for one year because there are other external factors involved in pricing like the cost of imported raw materials.

MBC said it is worried about the plan’s implications. “I hope that it is not a state of emergency because that would be alarming,” Lim said.

For instance, he said the President may exercise police powers in preventing squatters from returning to the places where they had built shanties.

Lim said he acknowledges that the damage wrought by Ondoy was severe but stressed that one year under a state of calamity would be too much. “Maybe they are thinking that we will be like New Orleans.” Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005.

He said the government must focus on bringing things back to normal. “We have to get out of this as soon as possible. The idea is to be normal again and not prolong the disaster. I think 60 days is already a lot,” he said. A state of calamity is usually in effect for 60 days unless extended.

Meanwhile, PCCI said that its members may have to discuss among themselves how the planned extension will impact on their businesses. Lacson said it is hard to tell if the member firms can sustain selling under the price control.

Lacson emphasized that member firms have already lost P1 billion because of the calamity.

“We will follow the law for as long as we can but we cannot operate when we are already losing money,” Dee said.

“We will do consultation over this,” Dee added. “All of us are trying to help the victims but the prices will not be able to move for a year then there will be suppliers who will be unwilling to deliver.”

The FPI said that there must be thorough discussions regarding price control. He said prices of goods are sensitive to spikes in the prices of raw materials in the international market. He said that if production cost goes up then the price should also go up or else the manufacturers will stop producing goods.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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