Groups of personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturers are urging the government to set up a program for stockpiling medical-grade PPE to ensure the availability of local supply of the products needed during pandemics.
In a joint statement Tuesday, the Confederation of Wearable Exporters of the Philippines (Conwep) and the Coalition of Philippine Manufacturers of PPE (CPMP) said a stockpiling program would also ensure that locally-made PPE will be sold and consumed in the domestic market.
Conwep and CPMP said through a stockpiling program, the government could buy more locally-produced PPE.
The groups added member companies joined the nationwide government procurement for PPE in the latter part of 2020, but local manufacturers’ capacity was not maximized due to the strict government bidding process.
“CPMP members were able to garner from the above-board procurement process only 27 percent of its monthly capacity for coveralls and gowns (815,000 units) and 69 percent of the monthly mask capacity or around 41.3 million units,” the groups said.
They added these orders have been produced and delivered within the first two months of the year.
“Clearly, the utilization of existing domestic capacity was marginalized. Locally-produced PPE products are not getting into the market, even if the products are supposedly made available for the sole nationalistic use of the Filipino people,” they said.
Earlier, one of the bottlenecks that the local PPE makers cited is that government procurement is not in sync with the production capacity of the manufacturers as the government’s demand is much higher than the local capacity.
However, this can be addressed through coordination between the government and the industry so that the manufacturers can ramp up their production to meet the volume requirement of the government procurement.
The industry players said this major bottleneck can be addressed by a comprehensive stockpiling program.
“A comprehensive procurement program which provides a gestational period for local manufacturers to source and stockpile on raw materials, within a calendar year should be in place. The government can plan the requirement projections to ably address the bottlenecks in the PPE supply chain management mechanism,” the groups said.
They also call on the lawmakers to immediately pass the Philippine Pandemic Protection Act and Stockpiling bills in both Houses.
“Government policy to support the preferred purchase of locally manufactured medical-grade PPE compliant with international standards directly supports the government’s initiative of job creation and preservation,” they added.
Member companies of Conwep and CPMP are among the local manufacturers that shifted some of their production capability to the manufacturing of critically needed PPE, such as medical-grade face masks, coveralls, gowns, foot and head covers, and respirators, among others.
At the onset of the pandemic, only one local manufacturer produced medical-grade face masks.
Through the investments of Conwep and CPMP companies that amounted to $35 million, the country can now produce 60 million pieces of face masks, 10 million sets of PPE accessories, and 3 million coveralls and gowns in a month.
Some 7,450 jobs were also saved as companies shifted to PPE making.