Duque justifies Pharmally procurement early into pandemic: We can’t wait for price to stabilize
MANILA, Philippines — Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has justified the government’s move to procure medical supplies from Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., noting that they cannot afford to wait for prices to stabilize as healthcare workers were already dying early into the COVID-19 pandemic.
Duque explained that as early as March 2020, there were reports of health workers getting sick and even dying from COVID-19 as they tended to patients during the early part of the surge in the country.
Hence, there was an urgent need for supplies like face masks, face shields, and personal protective equipment (PPE) sets — and it was Pharmally who had the capability to deliver.
“Sometime in March nung nag-umpisa ito, meron tayong ilang libo na nahawaan ng COVID-19 (when this started we had a few thousand people sick with COVID-19), the first reported deaths were about 27 healthcare workers,” Duque said during the House of Representatives committee good government and public accountability hearing.
“We have no luxury of time, we cannot wait until the supply stabilizes, because we wanted immediate protection for our healthcare workers,” he added.
Duque’s statements were similar to what former procurement head Warren Lex Liong, now Overall Deputy Ombudsman said during the hearing.
According to Liong, the price ceiling set by the Department of Health (DOH) during that time was P28. The face masks sold by Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. — the subject of the Senate blue ribbon committee probe — was at P27.
Both chambers of Congress are currently investigating the Department of Health (DOH) move to transfer P42 billion of its funds to procuring entities, after a Commission on Audit (COA) report on the department’s expenditures was made public.
Most of the P42 billion COVID-19 funds were allocated to the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM), which in turned procured from different companies.
Pharmally is currently at the center of the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing after it was revealed that a huge chunk of the contracts were given to the trading company — P8.7 billion — despite it having a capital of only P625,000.
It was also revealed that Pharmally sold at a higher price compared to local suppliers, as other companies like the EMS Components Assembly Inc., sold government face masks at P13.50.
In the blue ribbon committee hearing, it was revealed that what Pharmally supply chain head and director Linconn Ong did to supply government in a short notice was to ask help from friends who can supply them the equipment needed by government.
What happens is that Pharmally pays the companies once government disburses the payments. In case of foreign suppliers like those from China, businessman Michael Yang makes a guarantee that Pharmally can pay its dues.
Pharmally president Huang Tzu Yen also admitted before the Senate panel that they sought financial assistance from Yang, who was President Rodrigo Duterte’s former economic adviser.
Quezon 2nd District Rep. Jayjay Suarez said that the prices of face masks and other pandemic supplies are really seen to increase badly during that time because of the rise in demand for such items.
“Following the law of supply and demand, sadyang mataas po talaga ‘yung presyo nung panahong ‘yon kung ikukumpara natin ngayon. We can’t compare the prices now to the prices then because the situation is totally different then,” Suarez said.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.