LOCAL manufacturers of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other health supplies will not receive any government subsidy under the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) proposed budget for 2021 in the face of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
“Wala silang budget for subsidies. How I wish na mabigyan ng subsidy (They have no budget for subsidies. How I wish that they’ll be given subsidy),” Bukidnon Rep. Manuel Zubiri, who defended the DTI’s P20.1 billion budget for 2021 told Gabriela party-lisyt Rep. Arlene Brosas during the plenary deliberations of the P4.5 trillion proposed national budget for 2021.
Zubiri, a vice chair of the House committee on trade and industry, vowed to work on Brosas’ proposal for the government to help local manufacturers of PPE units and health supplies.
He said other countries Southeast Asia, Europe and North America set aside subsidies for their workers in the manufacturing sector to cover at least part of their salaries.
“I’ll make sure that all the requests of our colleagues will be acted upon,” Zubiri said.
Brosas cited the government’s response to the pandemic has been inadequate, citing the recent study of international medical journal The Lancet, which ranked the Philippines 66th out of 91 countries in suppressing COVID-19.
Duterte was also among the leaders in the list of “medical populists” criticized for their style of leadership during the pandemic by a global team of experts crafting strategies against COVID-19.
Sen. Franklin Drilon had earlier said COVID response has taken a backseat in the proposed 2021 budget.
“If we don’t find solutions, whatever budget we approve and allocate to whatever agency won’t matter and the health and economy of the country will continue to suffer,” Brosas said.
To make things worse for local PPE manufacturers, Sen. Risa Hontiveros reiterated her criticisms of the government’s decision to import overpriced PPE sets from China instead of patronizing locally-made units.
Hontiveros yesterday bared seven (7) contracts entered into by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) with various China-based companies for the supply of costly PPE units and four (4) contracts with local manufacturers.
Hontiveros made the disclosure as she hit back at Anakalusugan Party-list Rep. Mike Defensor who earlier defended the DBM from her claim that the government may have lost P1 billion in public funds after the agency purchased overpriced PPE sets from April and May.
“You want evidence? Here are 11 pieces. The DBM should explain these contracts. Huwag ninyong linlangin ang taumbayan gamit ang pagpapaikot ng maling information (Don’t fool the public by spreading fake information). What we need is clarity,” Hontiveros said.
“Rep. Mike Defensor also came out to defend the DBM, claiming that what the agency procured was cheaper than that procured by the previous administration. If that’s the case, they should investigate it and file the cases,” she added.
The 11 contracts that Hontiveros presented detailed the names of manufacturing companies, price of each PPE set, total number of units acquired and the amount spent by the DBM.
Hontiveros said that while DBM did sign four contracts with local companies, including one with Hafid ‘N Erasmus which had the cheapest PPE cost at P1,700 per set, it signed more contracts with Chinese firms whose PPE costs were higher.
The companies are Xuzhou Const. Machinery Group for P1,785.71each for 250,000 sets for a total of P446,428,571.43; Wen Hua Dev’t Industrial Co., Ltd., P1,768.30 each for 42,000 units (P74,268,674.99); Chushen Company Ltd., P1,767.46 each for 588,000 units (P1,039,266,480); Nikka Tradin, P1,980.20 for 50,000 pcs (P99,010,000); Pacific Field (Hong Kong) Ltd., P1,900.00 each for 28,000 units (P53,200,000); Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation, P1,910.00 for two million units (P3,820,000,000); Xuzhou Const. Machinery Group Imp. and Exp. Co. Ltd., P1,898.00 each for one million sets (P1,898,000,000); Wen Hua Dev’t Industrial Co., Ltd., P1,716.96 each for 800,000 sets (P1,373,568,000); Warmus Trading, P1,898 each for 20,000 pcs (P37,960,000); Shanghai Puheng Medical Equipment Co. Ltd.. P1,716.96 each for 200,000 (P343,392,000); and Hafid N’ Erasmus Corporation, P1,700.00 each for 30,000 units (P51,000,000).
Hontiveros questioned why the DBM prioritized the purchase from Chinese companies when local companies can also produce the PPE sets at lesser prices.
She noted that as early as February 6, the Bataan-based firm Medtex said it could manufacture two million face masks monthly while its sister companies under the Medtec Group can also produce complete PPE sets.
She also pointed out that the Department of Health had released a circular which resulted to a price freeze for supplies needed by the government in the fight against COVID-19 from March 23 to April 13.
Hontiveros said the price freeze meant that the eight components in a PPE set only costs P945 compared to those offered by Chinese companies which has a price range from over P1, 700 to P1,900 each.
“Of the 11 contracts, three of these are in the same time period as the DOH’s price freeze.
Each unit should have only cost almost P1,000 each if they got it from local manufacturers but instead, the DBM opted to transact with Chinese firms,” she said.
Hontiveros said these may have cost the government P1 billion in overpricing, which she added, is a “conservative estimate.” – With Ashzel Hachero