MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered six government agencies to coordinate and pool their resources and efforts into the production and “expedited” distribution of free face masks as the country continues to grapple with coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

By order of President Rodrigo Duterte, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on Wednesday signed Memorandum Order No. 49 putting the Departments of Trade and Industry (DTI), Health (DOH), Budget and Management (DBM), Science and Technology (DOST), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), and Presidential Management Staff (PMS) in charge of the job.

“It is imperative to reinforce non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as minimizing face-to-face interaction, wearing of face masks and face shields, and observing social distancing, to complement our healthcare facilities, and support our health workers in containing the future spread of the Covid-19 virus,” the order read.

Under the order, the DTI will be the lead implementing and coordinating agency relative to the production and procurement of face masks.

“DTI shall consolidate various micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) producers, cooperatives, and community organizations relative to the production of the face masks,” the order read.

The DTI will likewise support the TESDA in gaining access to production networks and supplier markets for the raw materials and finished goods.

With help from the DOH, the DTI will also determine the minimum, most cost-effective, and good quality specifications necessary for the face masks to be effective in protecting against the transmission of Covid-19.

On the other hand, the DBM-Procurement Service (PS) will be tasked to assist in the procurement of the face masks.

“The funds required for the said procurement shall be charged against the available allotments of the DOH,” the order read.

The DBM will provide technical assistance in the appropriate downloading and utilization of the funds, subject to existing budgeting, accounting, and auditing rules and regulations.

In efforts to provide livelihood and assistance to TESDA learners, the DTI and DBM-PS must coordinate with the TESDA for the procurement of face masks produced by the said learners, as may be considered within the prescribed specifications.

The DSWD must utilize its networks and facilities for the identification of and distribution to the priority beneficiaries of the face masks, such as those who are financially disadvantaged and persons with disability, including partner-beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), among others.

The PMS Assistant Secretary for Regional Concerns must lead in monitoring the progress of the distribution of face masks and submit a report to the President.

Other departments, agencies, and offices of the government, including government-owned or controlled corporations, government financial institutions, and state universities and colleges are directed, and LGUs are enjoined to cooperate and render full assistance.

Last month, Duterte announced his desire for households, especially the poor, to receive free face masks from government.

The DTI earlier announced that MSMEs assisted by the shared service facility (SSF) program will be supplying reusable face masks that will be distributed to vulnerable sectors in the society.

Each household from these vulnerable sectors shall receive 50 pieces of face masks from the government, the DTI said.

The wearing of face masks in public areas is currently required under quarantine protocols.

The United Kingdom think tank YouGov in partnership with the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London earlier conducted a survey which found that most Filipinos wear face masks whenever they leave their homes. (PNA)