MANILA, Philippines — The local garment business misplaced greater than 25,000 jobs, together with 3,500 from simply three factories that have been shuttered as a result of authorities’s purchases of non-public protecting gear (PPE) from different international locations, business gamers instructed the Senate on Wednesday.
They stated the desire of the Department of Health (DOH) for imported PPE, largely from China, had elbowed out local manufacturers whom the federal government had requested to repurpose their factories final yr for the anticipated demand for PPE in the course of the pandemic.
The manufacturers’ claims prompted Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, chair of the Senate committee on commerce, to name for an investigation of the alleged desire for foreign-made PPE.
“I think it’s unfair because although it would have saved jobs by telling factories to repurpose, and yet at the same time [the government] disappoints them by not buying their output, their produce,” Pimentel stated at a Senate public listening to to evaluate ongoing authorities packages meant to assist industries hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among those that suffered closely have been the garment makers, a few of whom have been requested by the federal government to repurpose their factories to supply PPE when the loss of life toll amongst front-line well being staff started to rise within the early months of the pandemic.
Maria Teresita Jocson Agoncillo, government director of the Confederation of Wearable Exporters of the Philippines (Conwep), stated the garment sector retrenched about 25,400 of a complete of 120,000 staff from June to December 2020 as a result of financial downturn attributable to the pandemic.
Of the 25,400 garment manufacturing facility staff who misplaced their jobs, 3,500 have been from three firms that repurposed their factories for PPE manufacturing, Agoncillo stated.
Other firms managed to retain their staff when PPE orders from the federal government started to reach in January this yr, she stated.
Rosette Carillo, affiliate director of the Confederation of Garments Exporters of the Philippines, stated her group was known as in by the federal government final yr to assist replenish the dire want for medical-grade PPE.
In response, a gaggle of 5 main firms fashioned the Coalition of Philippine Manufacturers of PPE in July, and invested about $35 million (P1.7 billion) to supply medical-grade PPE, Carillo stated.
She stated three main manufacturers and exporters of worldwide manufacturers of their group agreed to transform to manufacturing PPE, face masks and different medical gear amid the looming menace of enterprise closures as a result of pandemic.
“The foremost concern also is to retain the factory jobs that they have with the repurposing of these factories, and were able to retain about 7,500 workers in the factories,” she stated.
But as a result of the federal government purchased PPE based mostly on the bottom cost, local manufacturers misplaced out to overseas rivals that provided lower-priced PPE, Carillo stated.
“Unfortunately, also at the same time, the Philippine market was flooded with very low-cost PPE from China, some of them are even substandard,” she stated.
Local PPE manufacturers urged the Senate to deal with the 4 “pandemic bills” pending within the committee on well being, which mandates the federal government to prioritize domestically produced PPE.
They additionally known as for Congress’ assist to proposals for the federal government to stockpile PPE to make sure a prepared provide within the occasion that one other well being disaster breaks out.
Pimentel lamented the federal government’s use of funds from overseas borrowings to pay overseas manufacturers to the detriment of the local business in the course of a pandemic.
Sen. Imee Marcos, chair of the Senate committee on financial affairs, stated that within the newest bidding to produce PPE, local manufacturers secured solely 14 p.c of the overall P4.8 billion contract.
But local producers misplaced to overseas firms due to a rule that required them to ship 1 million PPE units in 15 days.
Sen. Nancy Binay suspected the attainable existence of a cartel within the PPE procurement.
Marcos stated the “same few companies” continued to win within the biddings.
DOH: No favorites
The DOH denied that it favored overseas manufacturers over local PPE makers.
“The DOH does not, and has never, favored any particular source for PPE,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire stated, including that the well being division was indirectly concerned within the buy of PPE.
It is the Department of Budget and Management that’s answerable for PPE procurement, she stated.
“It is the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management, which serves as the procuring arm of the DOH for PPE and other commodities for the pandemic—the DOH only provides the technical specifications of the PPE and equipment that it needs,” she stated.
Vergeire stated the DOH acknowledged the impression of the pandemic on the clothes business and had tapped Conwep for the local manufacturing of PPE.
She stated the division was looking for additional collaboration with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Conwep for added orders of domestically made PPE.
New legislation wanted
When requested to remark in regards to the PPE producers’ issues, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez stated they hoped that there might be a legislation that may make sure the procurement of merchandise from government-initiated manufacturing packages, reminiscent of what was executed within the case of the repurposed firms.
“We are for buying local and we, in DTI-BOI [Board of Investments], assisted local manufacturers into repurposing their operations to produce the PPE and medical-grade masks. We supported and endorsed them to procuring agencies and I know they participated in the required process of bidding,” he stated.
There is presently a pending invoice within the Senate known as the Pandemic Protection Act of 2020, which was filed individually and in numerous variations by quite a lot of senators.
One provision of the invoice requires the federal government to provide desire for domestically produced items. Moreover, the federal government will likely be required to select the local producer with the bottom bid, so long as this isn’t 15 p.c to twenty p.c greater than the bottom bid of a overseas provider.
—WITH REPORTS FROM PATRICIA DENISE M. CHIU AND ROY STEPHEN C. CANIVEL
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