BOC seizes P15 million worth of PPEs suspected to be smuggled in Manila

Robie de Guzman   •   April 1, 2020   •   324

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Customs (BOC) on Wednesday said it has seized P15 million worth of personal protective equipment (PPE) suspected to be smuggled in a series of operations in Manila.

The BOC said the PPEs were confiscated from three shops in Sta. Cruz, Manila that were jointly raided by the agents of the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Tuesday, March 31.

Authorities recovered various PPEs, including gloves, face masks (surgical and N95), and goggles that are suspected to have been misdeclared as general merchandise when imported into the country.

“Smuggled PPE may pose a health risk to users since such items may not comply with the safety standards set by the government rendering them not fit for human utilization,” the bureau said in a statement.

The BOC said the inventory of said products is ongoing, while store owners were given 15 days to present necessary documents to prove that the items were legally imported.

“If proven that the PPEs were smuggled the store owners may face charges of smuggling in relation to the provisions of The Customs Modernization Act (CMTA),” the BOC said.

“Although the Bureau is focused in expediting the importation of PPE and other medical supplies badly needed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency is also committed in ensuring that goods are within acceptable standards and are safe for the public use,” it added.

The BOC recently raided a shop allegedly selling PPE and alcohol at exorbitant prices online amid high demand for such medical supplies.

Duterte defends DOH amid controversy on ‘overpriced’ PPEs

Marje Pelayo   •   May 26, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has defended the Department of Health (DOH) for the alleged ‘overpriced’ procurement of personal protective equipment (PPEs) amounting to P1,100 per piece. 

During a late-night briefing in Malacañang, the Chief Executive responded to criticisms by some lawmakers saying he gave his approval to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to release funds for the purchase of medical supplies including the PPEs may it be high priced as he ordered concerned agencies not to recycle PPEs.

“I gave him the instruction and I admit it in public now. [It told him:] Do everything you can. Whether it’s cheap or it’s expensive, just go ahead and do something about it,” the President said as he recalled his directive to Secretary Francisco Duque III on the procurement of medical supplies.

Budget Undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao, speaking on the procurement, said they were just abiding by the international standards on the procurement of medical equipment especially the PPEs.

“This is the standard by DOH and the FDA. (They’re of) international standards and we’re following that. We don’t go below (because) the company can be sued. We can be sued,” Lao told the President to which he agreed.

“Buhay iyan. Tama iyan. Iyon ang binili ninyo. Walang problema [It’s life that we’re concerned at so it’s just right that you purchase such type. No problem],” the President told his Cabinet. MNP (with inputs from Rosalie Coz)

From shoes to face masks: Marikina shoemakers shift production amid COVID-19 crisis

Aileen Cerrudo   •   May 14, 2020

All stores in Marikina City are temporarily closed due to the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) implemented in the National Capital Region (NCR).

Roweliza Landicho, owner of the Roweliza Shoes and Bags store, had to look for other sources of income after their shop closed during the ECQ.

Their shoes and bags production has been suspended and Roweliza is worried not just for her family but for her employees as well.

After attending a webinar, she decided to shift from making shoes and bags to manufacturing face masks and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Nakita ko po kasi na iyon ang parang in demand sa ngayon. Tapos, para magkaroon ng extra income pati po ang mga manggagawa namin (I saw that there is a demand for this and also for our workers to have extra income), she said.

She referred the designs of the PPE from the source data design of the Office of the Vice President and she learned the idea through the webinar of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

Sinubukan po namin gumamit mga local weaves para matulungan din natin ang mga local weavers para sabay-sabay makabangon sa kaniya-kaniyang industriya (We tried to use local weavers to also help them out, so that we can all recover together in our respective industries), Roweliza said.

Meanwhile, the Zapeteria Hub has begun making face masks using shoe designs. The face mask designs vary from sneakers, leather shoe design, and others.

The face masks, which are washable, have pockets where one can put filters for extra protection.

Zapateria Hub owner Unyx Sta. Ana said they still want to retain their trademark.

Syempre ang Marikina ay kilala sa pagsasapatos. Kung gagawa man kami ng masks ay gusto namin na mailabas pa rin ang elemento ng sapatos (Of course Marikina City is known for shoes. If we are to make face masks, we still want to retain the ‘shoe element),” he said.

They have already received numerous orders from business owners like salons and barbershops. AAC (with reports from Vincent Arboleda)

Nurses group rebuts DOH statement on high COVID-19 infection rate among PH healthcare workers

Marje Pelayo   •   April 27, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — A group of nurses contradicted the claim of the Department of Health (DOH) that most healthcare workers got infected with coronavirus disease (COVID-19) from outside their workplaces.

As of DOH’s latest report on Monday (April 27), a total of 1,120 healthcare workers have tested positive for COVID-19.

The Filipino Nurses United said it is the inadequacy of PPEs and long hours of duty without breaks that compromise the safety, health, and lives of nurses. 

“We have received reports that nurses do not eat, drink nor take comfort room breaks so as not to soil or discard the PPEs,” the group said in a statement. 

“Furthermore, long duty hours of more than eight hours per shift or over 40 hours a week due to severe understaffing make them much more vulnerable to COVID-19 and other diseases due to weakened immune systems,” it added.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III last week alleged medical workers of bad habits in handling their PPEs.

“Paglabas, tatanggalin nila ang PPEs nila pero ang scrub suits underneath, hindi nila tinatanggal. Lalabas sila kapag ganoon ang nangyari, talagang you will expect a contamination to happen [When they go out, they remove their PPEs but not the scrub suit underneath. They go out, and if that’s the case, you will expect contamination to happen],” Duque claimed in one of his press briefings.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire shared the same reasoning. 

“When they go home and when they go back to work and they get infections outside of their workplaces,” she said in a separate interview.

But the group argued that “wearing PPEs for 12 hours of duty for seven days or 14 days straight duty causes nurses to suffer from suffocation, exhaustion, and dehydration because of extreme heat from the coveralls which compromise their breathing.”

Such conditions in workplaces, the group said, have already caused nurses to suffer vertigo, hypertension, fluid, and electrolyte imbalance such as hypokalemia or low potassium levels due to severe perspiration.

Thus, the nurses’ group has asked the national government for support such as an adequate supply of PPEs and the augmentation of manpower in hospitals.

The World Health Organization (WHO) already expressed concern over the high rate of COVID-19 infection among healthcare workers in the Philippines, one of the highest in the Western Pacific Region. 

The international health body recommends hospitals to reduce the hours of nurses’ and doctors’ duty as well as other medical personnel. MNP (with reports from Aiko Miguel)


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