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.