MANILA, Philippines — Presidential candidate Sen. Manny Pacquiao opposes the call of the Department of the Interior and Local Government to restrict sari-sari stores from selling over-the-counter medicines, saying the crackdown of smuggling of fake medicines should be targeted first and foremost to address the problem of the presence of counterfeits.
Pacquiao reasoned that “sari-sari” stores serve as the most accessible source of medicines for people living in rural areas.
“Consider natin na hindi lahat ay malapit sa mga drug store. Sa ibang lugar baka sampu hanggang 20 kilometro ang layo ng bayan na kung saan may mga botika, tapos hindi pa lahat 24 hours open,” Pacquiao said.
“Hindi lahat may sasakyan para umalis patungong bayan to buy medicine sa gabi. Isa pa, karamihan tingi-tingi lang kung bumili kaya baka mas mahal pa yung pamasahe o gasolinang kinonsumo sa bibilhin nilang gamot,” he added.
(Let us consider that not everyone resides near drug stores. In other areas, the distance to a town with a pharmacy would probably be 10 to 20 kilometers, and not all of these pharmacies are open 24 hours.
Not everyone has a car to take them to other towns to buy medicine at night. Also, most people only buy drugs in retail so the fare or fuel consumed for these transactions end up being more expensive than what they set out to buy.)
The proposal to restrict sari-sari stores came amidst reports from the Food and Drug Administration of 185 micro-enterprise stores allegedly illegally selling medicines. Of the 185 reported stores, 78 were guilty while 9 were selling fake drugs and Covid-19 meds.
In response, DILG Secretary Eduardo Año has directed the Philippine National Police to arrest violators who will be caught still selling these fake medicines.
Saying that the proposed solution to restrict sari-sari stores from merchandising non-prescription meds is “anti-poor” and impractical for owners and rural residents, Pacquiao expressed that the effective eradication of smuggling of fake meds should be prioritized instead.
Along with this, the Presidential candidate also said that government officials who are protecting smugglers of counterfeit medicine must be immediately arrested.
“Kailangan nating higpitan ang pagpasok ng mga pekeng gamot at hindi dapat pinapahirapan ang mga malilit na sari-sari stores. Wala namang maititinda na peke kung walang makakapasok sa atin na peke. Kailangan lang nating ma-implement mabuti ang ating generic law nang sa gayon ay maging accessible sa tao ang mga mura ngunit mabisang gamot,” he said.
(We need to restrict the entry of fake drugs and small sundry stores should not be oppressed. No counterfeit can be sold if no counterfeit can enter the country. We just need to implement our generic law well so that cheap but effective drugs would be accessible to people.)
For more proper monitoring, the senator proposed that sari-sari stores can be required to submit a list of drugs they are selling to their respective barangays as an alternative to the more burdensome requirement of securing of a permit.