SENATOR Imee Marcos has sought to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign-made medical supplies by boosting their local production, especially of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers and other frontliners.
Marcos, who chairs the Senate committee on economic affairs, has filed Senate Bill 1708, or the “Healthcare Manufacturing and Pandemic Protection Act,” to exempt local manufacturers from certain taxes and continue applying export incentives even on their output for domestic consumption.
“We need to guarantee that our health workers and frontliners have the medical supplies they require. Shortages of PPEs and other requisites caused infections resulting in the inexcusably high death toll among doctors, nurses and other frontliners,” Marcos said.
“At the onset of the pandemic, we were unable to procure supplies from China, Singapore, Japan, and Korea, themselves struggling against the virus. We could not bid against the US and Europe who were understandably paying top dollar for the same short supplies,” Marcos added.
“Clearly what we need to do is to finally establish health security or, at the very least, PPE security, by producing these supplies locally, initiating the stockpiling of their raw materials and encouraging repurposing and innovation among willing Filipino manufacturers,” Marcos also said.
Local manufacturers need not pay import duties on raw materials and equipment, value-added taxes, and other fees collected by the Bureau of Customs and Food and Drug Administration under the Marcos bill.
Incentives will also be maintained for export manufacturers even if most of the medical supplies they produce will go to the Department of Health and private local hospitals.
“Waiving export requirements during a crisis and crediting output for local needs will allow a major industry like the garments industry to preserve hundreds of thousands of jobs and even to expand,” Marcos said.
Marcos had recommended the shift from export manufacture to local production of PPEs by communities of sewers in Taytay, Cavite, and Bataan when the supply of raw materials and orders dwindled during the lockdown in mid-March.
Marcos warned that the country’s rising cases of COVID-19 infection will pose more risks to the safety of healthcare workers, citing that the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine already had to suspend operations twice because its personnel fell ill.
“During health emergencies, we should give priority to local manufacturers when the government needs to procure PPE and other medical supplies. But their production capacities must be strengthened first,” Marcos said.
“We can still expand our present capacity which the DTI has pegged at 300,000 PPEs per month. Controversy over the alleged overpricing of imported PPEs will also be avoided in the future,” Marcos said.