Robredo hits gov’t tendency to buy PPEs from China: PH tailors can make it
MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Leni Robredo on Wednesday raised questions on the government’s priorities, particularly its penchant for buying medical supplies from China, especially at a time when the domestic economy must be boosted.
She cited the importation of P1.8 billion worth of personal protective equipment (PPEs) from China, when, she pointed out, the PPE shortage in the early part of the COVID-19 outbreak could have been immediately solved within the country.
She said that tapping local products will also help the country’s ailing economy.
“Parang hindi klaro ano ba iyong priorities natin. So iyong sa akin, iyong panawagan patuloy. Matagal ko na itong panawagan: na iyong mga hindi kailangang iimport, huwag muna nating iimport,” Robredo said in an interview with Aksyon Radyo Cebu.
“Kasi kapag nag-iimport tayo, nalulugi iyong mga local producers […] Pero iyong sa akin, lahat na puwedeng i-produce dito, i-produce,” she added.
Robredo said the government’s tendency to source PPEs from China is also a reason why her office sought local tailors to create PPEs based on a design made by a local fashion designer and approved by several health experts.
She urged the government to support Filipino entrepreneurs and only resort to importation if a product is not available in the Philippines.
“Panahon ito na iyong talagang dapat i-boost natin iyong local. I-boost natin iyong local. Mag-iimport lang tayo ng very essential goods na talagang wala dito sa atin,” Robredo said.
“Pero kaya kami nag-decide na mag-local production na ng PPE sets kasi import tayo nang import sa China, and kaya naman natin gawin,” she added.
In June, the Office of the Ombudsman ordered an investigation of the Department of Health (DOH) over alleged shortcomings in the way it handled the COVID-19 pandemic. Part of the investigation, Ombudsman Samuel Martires said, would focus on the delayed procurement of PPEs that led to a high infection rate among health workers.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque had said that the Philippines was not late in purchasing PPEs, only that other countries managed to get ahead in placing orders.
The PPEs procured from China also encountered various issues. Among them was when several individuals including Senator Panfilo Lacson pointed out that the purchase was overpriced, although DOH defended its decision to buy China-made PPEs saying it was expensive since it was the most complete PPE set.
Last May, Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. admitted that the trend of health workers dying due to the latest coronavirus strain was stopped when they received enough supply of PPEs.
To recall, Robredo’s office and its private partners have tapped local tailors, most of them affected by the lack of orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic, to create PPEs that were donated to various hospitals.
Aside from the PPE donations, the Office of the Vice President also mounted other COVID-19 response services like the provision of shuttles and dormitories for frontliners in Metro Manila and Luzon during the enhanced community quarantine, and currently, in Cebu, which is now the country’s lone area under ECQ. (With reports from Jim Mendoza, trainee)
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