No more probe as Palace rules out anomaly in purchase of ‘overpriced’ PPEs
MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Tuesday said an independent investigation is no longer needed in the alleged “overpriced” personal protective equipment (PPEs) procured by the government to protect healthcare workers from the novel coronavirus.
This is after President Rodrigo Duterte, in a late Monday night public address, defended Health Secretary Francisco Duque III over the procurement of the protective gear, saying that it was him who ordered the swift purchase of PPEs regardless of the cost.
“Naging malinaw naman at nagbigay din ng opinyon ang mga pribadong mga doktor na talagang wala pong irregularity, walang overpriced kasi set po ‘yan,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a televised Palace briefing.
“Dalawang PPE nga po kasama diyan, kasama pa yung goggles, kasama pa yung sa paa. So wala pong kwestiyon sa PPE,” he added.
(It is clear, and private doctors have given their opinion, that there is no irregularity, no overpriced [procurement] because it comes in set. It actually comes with two PPEs and goggles, with a set for the feet. So there is no question in PPE.)
During Monday evening’s meeting in Malacañang, Budget Undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao presented a complete set of PPE procured by the government for medical frontliners as he explained that the purchased protective gear meet local and international standards.
He also said that the most expensive item in the PPE set is the “Ebola-type” coverall, which costs P1,100 compared with locally-made suits priced at P850. The coverall can supposedly stop even air transmissible viruses.
However, Duterte ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to probe a couple who supposedly offered to sell overpriced medical equipment to the government which cost three times what manufacturers sell them for.
“Ang pinapaimbestigahan po ‘yung mga extraction machines at mga test kits dahil karamihan po dito lalong lalo na yung test kits galing lang po sa isang kumpanya sa Tsina at iba-iba lang po ang presyo depende kung sino nagbenta. So yun po ang pinaimbestigahan ni Presidente,” Roque said.
(What is being investigated are the procured extraction machines and test kits because most of which especially the test kits came from a single company in China and prices varies depending on who is the seller. So that is what the President wants investigated.)
Senator Panfilo Lacson earlier flagged the alleged overpricing of COVID-19 test kits, saying that an automated extraction machine from the manufacturer Sansure Biotech should only cost P1.75 million but the one purchased by the government is P4 million per unit.
But Lao said the government opted to buy from a Hong-Kong based corporation also distributing Sansure equipment.
Roque pointed out that the couple may be held liable under the Anti-Profiteering law and the Bayanihan Act.
Duterte gave the NBI three days to look into the matter and to report its findings to the public.
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