A year and a day after Super Typhoon Yutu hit the CNMI last Oct. 24, 2018, the price freeze on basic commodities that was declared for the CNMI to prevent price-gouging was finally lifted last Friday.
Acting governor Arnold I. Palacios issued Executive Order 2019-14 last Oct. 25, 2019, to lift the suspension of prices of select commodities in the CNMI. The price freeze had been active since Oct. 27, 2018.
The order to freeze the prizes of basic commodities in the CNMI was declared a day after Gov. Ralph DLG Torres declared a state of significant emergency through Executive Order 2018-16 on Oct. 26, 2018.
The “price freeze shall last until rescinded or until the declaration of emergency or disaster are terminated, whichever occurs first,” EO 2019-14 noted, citing the initial price freeze declaration order.
The freeze was intended to prevent price gouging, or the act of illegally increasing the prices of goods based solely on shortages caused by natural disaster or other emergencies.
Gas, kerosene, diesel fuel, natural gas, and all other chemical fuels, whether gaseous, liquid, or solid, were included in the price freeze, including all types of food, water, beverages, and ice; clothing; flashlights, lamps, lanterns, candles, light bulbs, and other means of illumination; generators, cables, wires, electrical batteries, and other similar equipment for the generation or transmission of electrical power; all appliances for storage and preparation of food; tools typically used for construction, ground clearing, or home repairs, including electrically, chemically, and manually powered tools; all bedding items; and housing rentals, including apartments and condominiums and other commodities from rising.
A person or business who is found guilty of price gouging can be prosecuted criminally or civilly, and can face up to a $10,000 fine and up to one year in jail for each violation.
The state of significant emergency for the CNMI since Super Typhoon Yutu remains in place and has yet to be lifted. According to a communication from the Governor’s Office, it just renewed the emergency declaration through Executive Order 2019-12.