MANILA - Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Monday urged the Senate to investigate the status of the "Bayanihan PPE Project," a government-led effort to boost the local manufacturing of personal protective equipment for health workers combating the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the country.
Of the 57.6 million PPEs produced locally, the national government only bought 10 million, Hontiveros said in her Senate Resolution No. 506.
"Our COVID-19 response budget can afford to supply more frontliners with more medical-grade equipment if we procure locally," she said in a statement.
"We have the supply, we have the quality, and we have the funds -- bakit patuloy pa ang mass importation natin? (Why do we continue with mass importation?)" she said.
It is "questionable" why the national government allegedly favored "costlier imports from countries like China," Hontiveros said.
As of June 2020, the import value of PPEs and medical supplies amounted to $31.2 million, about 124 percent higher compared to data in 2019, she said, citing information from the Philippine Statistics authority.
"It is imperative for the Philippine government to promote the preferential use of Filipino labor and locally-manufactured products, and assure the growth and sustainability of this sector," Hontiveros said in her resolution.
"[It] secures job retention for thousands of skilled Filipino factory workers amidst the pandemic," she said.
Under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, P3 billion will be allocated for the procurement of personal protective equipment "with preference to products manufactured, produced, or made in the Philippines."
The opposition senator said the national government needs to adjust its procurement strategy to ensure that Filipino manufacturers would benefit more than their international competitors.
"In the face of suffering, Filipinos have always come out as heroes. But so much of that suffering is unnecessary," she said.