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House probe on alleged preference on imported over locally-made PPE sought

/ 10:21 AM May 03, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — An investigation into the national government’s alleged preference of imported over locally-made personal protective equipment (PPE) during the coronavirus pandemic is being pushed in the House of Representatives.

Under House Resolution No. 1735 filed on April 30, a copy of which was obtained by the media on Monday, the Makabayan Bloc cited Rosette Carillo, associate director of the Confederation of Wearable Exporters of the Philippines (CONWEP) who said that at the height of the rising COVID-19 cases in 2020, her group was called by the government to “help fill up the dire need for medical-grade PPE.”

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In response, a group of five local companies formed the Coalition of Philippine Manufacturers of PPE (CPMP) in July 2020, and invested about P1.7 billion to produce medical-grade PPEs.

However, despite the national government’s earlier encouragement for local manufacturers to produce PPE, the government “still preferred the procurement of imported PPE, mostly from China”, the lawmakers said in the resolution.

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“This importation preference, which not only affected our much-needed dollar reserves, also practically elbowed out local manufacturers that the government had asked to repurpose their factories for the anticipated increase demand for PPE during the pandemic,” the Makabayan Bloc said in the resolution.

“The local industry could not compete with foreign PPE manufacturers, which are now flooding the domestic market with low-cost, albeit some were even reported to be substandard, PPE from China,” the bloc added.

Citing Section 4 (t) of the Republic Act No. 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One act, which was effective until December 19, 2020, the bloc said preference and incentives shall be given to medical safety products that are locally manufactured.

“The Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management, which now serves as the national government’s procurement arm for PPE and other commodities for the pandemic, and the [Department of Health] that provides the technical specifications of the PPE and needed equipment, should be made accountable for this clearly lopsided policy,” the bloc said.

“It is the duty of Congress to pass legislative measures to prioritize and allocate the country’s limited resources to effectively address both the worsening health and economic crises the country now face as a result of COVID-19 pandemic rather than aggravating the situation,” the bloc added.

The Makabayan Bloc is composed of Bayan Muna Reps. Carlos Zarate, Ferdinand Gaite, and Eufemia Cullamat; ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. France Castro; Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas; and Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Jane Elago.

The local garment industry lost more than 25,000 jobs, including 3,500 from just three factories that were shuttered due to the government’s purchases of PPE from other countries, industry players earlier told the Senate.

JE

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