Duterte defends DOH amid controversy on ‘overpriced’ PPEs

Marje Pelayo   •   May 26, 2020   •   559

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)

Baguio City adds wearing of face shield to list of mandatory safety precautions

Marje Pelayo   •   May 10, 2021

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — The Baguio City government made the wearing of face shields mandatory in all public areas in the city.

According to Baguio City Public Information Office (PIO)  Chief Aileen Refuerzo, the city’s legislative body has approved on final reading Ordinance No. 49, series of 2021, or the Face Mask, Face Shield Ordinance of 2021.

This amended Ordinance No. 45-2020 or the Face Mask Ordinance of 2020 in the City of Baguio by incorporating the face shield requirement.

According to the ordinance, aside from wearing face masks, the public is now directed to wear face shields as added protection against the deadly viral disease.

“Any person venturing outside the comforts of their respective abodes, or going to public buildings and places shall at all time wear face masks and face shields until the threat of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is completely eliminated in the Philippines or during the State of Public Health Emergency,” the ordinance read.

The amended ordinance now also regulates the indiscriminate disposal of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the city.

The new policy also emphasized that any person is not allowed to make business transactions without a face mask and face shield in public areas such as public markets, supermarkets, groceries, malls, shopping centers, banks, and in any offices of the government.

A “No Face Shield, No Face Mask, No Ride” policy will apply in all public transportation sectors.

The Baguio City PIO also posted on Facebook several exceptions in the implementation of the ordinance.

Posted by Public Information Office – City of Baguio on Sunday, May 9, 2021

 

Penalty for non-compliance in face mask order is P1,000 to P3,000 for first to third offense or cancellation of a business permit as appropriate.

Meanwhile, the penalties for not wearing a face shield and improper disposal of PPEs, discarded face masks, and face shields are P500 for the first offense, P1,000 for the second offense, and P2,000 for the third offense and cancellation of the permit as appropriate.

After Duterte’s ‘hero’ remark, Duque says honor also goes to medical, economic frontliners

Robie de Guzman   •   May 4, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III on Tuesday expressed appreciation for President Rodrigo Duterte’s remark calling him a “hero” amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but stressed that medical and economic frontliners who brave the public health crisis are the heroes of the pandemic.

“I am touched by the President’s remarks acknowledging the efforts of the DOH. I am thankful for his continued support and confidence in my leadership,” Duque said in a statement.

“Let me reiterate what I have been saying since the beginning of the pandemic – the heroes are our medical and economic frontliners who brave the pandemic in order to show up at work and fulfill their essential duties,” he added.

During the rollout of Sputnik V vaccine in a hospital in Manila, Duque expressed hope that the country’s frontliners will remain inspired and strong, as they are the ones taking care of COVID-19 patients.

He also reminded the public to choose to be a hero rather than be a spreader of the disease by observing health protocols, such as the wearing of face mask, despite the discomfort it brings.

“While the government has put in place comprehensive mitigation and response strategies, these are but cushions to dampen the impact of disease transmission; as long as there are breaches in our minimum public health standards, there will be transmission, and heartbreakingly so, there will be deaths,” he said.

“Yes, we may be able to survive contracting the disease, but we must remember that others will not be as fortunate. But it is also the little things that can stop the spread of disease – the proper wearing of a mask and face shield may be uncomfortable at times, but enduring a little discomfort can save lives,” he added.

Procurement Law hinders gov’t purchase of locally made PPEs — DTI

Marje Pelayo   •   April 29, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) explained why the government couldn’t prefer buying locally-made personal protective equipment (PPE) amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the Laging Handa briefing on Thursday (April 29), Trade Undersecretary Ruth Castelo responded over concerns from garment manufacturers who claim losing income and competition with imported PPEs.

According to Castelo, the repurposing of businesses was a project that the government requested from local manufacturers since the beginning of the pandemic last year.

“Project natin ‘yan last year, kinonvince natin silang (manufacturers) na mag-repurpose. Iyong mga gumagawa dati ng mga kung ano-anong produkto, nag-convert into producing face masks, face shields, PPEs, at that time during the emergency,” Castelo said.

“Kaya lang, ang hindrance diyan sa bidding process, we have RA 9184, ito ‘yung procurement law natin. It does not specify na preference natin ang domestic production,” the official explained.

Art. X Sec. 34 of RA 9184 provides for the objective and process of post-qualification of bids.

It reads, “Post-qualification is the stage where the bidder with the Lowest Calculated Bid, in the case of Goods and Infrastructure Projects, or the Highest Rated Bid, in the case of Consulting Services, undergoes verification and validation whether he has passed all the requirements and conditions as specified in the Bidding Documents.”

“If the bidder with the Lowest Calculated Bid or Highest Rated Bid passes all the criteria for post-qualification, his Bid shall be considered the ‘Lowest Calculated Responsive Bid,’ in the case of Goods and Infrastructure or the ‘Highest Rated Responsive Bid,’ in the case of Consulting Services,” it added.

“In all cases, the contract shall be awarded only to the bidder with the Lowest Calculated Responsive Bid or Highest Rated Responsive Bid,” it further stated.

During the Senate hearing on Wednesday (April 28), garment manufacturers lamented that after DTI convinced them to repurpose their businesses and respond to the needs for face masks and PPEs, the government still ended up importing said products.

They said that since the government couldn’t support them, they were left with no choice but to export their products.

“We were subjected to the lowest cost and unfortunately, also at the same time, the Philippine market was flooded with very low-cost PPEs from China. Some of them are even substandard,” said Rosette Carillo of the Coalition of Philippine Manufacturers of PPE (CPMP).

But Castelo said, it is not that the government does not consider the local manufacturers but because of the law that hinders the government to do so.

“Hindi naman sa hindi natin kinonsider sila [local PPE manufacturers], because of the law that we have, sana nai-push natin na sila mismo ay makalaban sa specifications ng imported products na pantay sila or lampas pa,” Castelo said.

She explained that no less than Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez himself made a recommendation on the matter to prioritize domestic purchase especially that the Department has the “Go Lokal, Buy Lokal” Program.

During the Senate hearing, the Confederation of Wearable Exporters of the Philippines (CONWEP) reported that an estimated 25,000 workers from some of its member companies lost their jobs due to the crisis.

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