Garments exporters clamor for help

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    While repurposing of manufacturing plants have brought in $35 million (P1.75 billion) investments and saved 7,450 jobs, garments exporters are crying out for help due to the additional costs they have to bear to keep operations running.

    In a statement, Secretary Ramon Lopez of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)
    said the Philippines now has the capacity to locally manufacture high quality medical-grade personal protective equipments (PPEs), including N95 and N88 surgical masks after the agency encouraged local manufacturers to repurpose some of their manufacturing capacity into the production of critical weapons to fight the war against COVID-19 .

    One of the groups which heeded the call is the Confederation of Wearable Exporters of the Philippines (CONWEP) which started to switch their capacity and even bought new production lines to be able to produce high quality medical-grade PPEs that passed the standards of the Department of Health and the Food and Drug Administration.

    Lopez said manufacturers such as Reliance, MedTechs, EMS and Tacca and other members of the Confederation eventually started and expanded their production capacity.

    These companies and CONWEP collectively produce 57.6 million face masks and 3 million coveralls capacity per month.

    CONWEP members though still have to fulfil the remaining orders from buyers of garments.

    Maritess Agoncillo, CONWEP president, said the lockdowns had a crippling impact on their operations as they limit mobility and capped their capacities that led to additional costs.

    Agoncillo said running a factory at 50 percent for social distancing or about 1,000 workers, entails $10,000 in expense for shuttle services.

    Testing though necessary is also an additional cost.

    “The government has to put up an aggressive tripartite discussion with us. The Department of Labor (and Employment or DOLE) has to have an aggressive in the IATF (Inter-agency

    Task Force for the Management of Emerging Diseases),” she said.
    Garments exporters employing thousands need to have their workers tested every six weeks using rapid test kits that cost P700 to P1,000 each.

    “All these additional costs of a new better new normal should be tied first to a fiscal policy.

    It should be deductible at end of day,” Agoncillo said.

    Government should step in, she said, by giving the industry its own pool of resources and backup remedies from the Bayanihan law to provide subsidies and sustain jobs. (I. Isip)