Underutilized, local PPE makers ask gov’t: What’s the plan?

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MANILA, Philippines—A group of local manufacturers, who heeded a government request to repurpose their facilities, is now capable of making tens of millions of personal protective equipment (PPE) in a year but the Duterte administration had bought only a portion of that supply, forcing the group to lay off workers.

The Confederation of Philippine Manufacturers of PPE (CPMP) is made up of five manufacturers with decades of experience in electronics and garment manufacturing. They had been asked by the Department of Trade and Industry in March 2020 to repurpose their facilities to make medical grade PPEs, a move which cost the companies an initial investment of $35 million.

As of the third quarter of 2020, CPMP has a total capacity to make 720 million face masks, 36 million coveralls and isolation gowns and 120 million units of PPE accessories.

“Unfortunately, the local supplier’s capacity was not maximized in the overall government procurement setup,” CPMP said in a statement on Tuesday (May 4), which urged the government to come up with a comprehensive stockpiling program.

All of the PPEs the group made are medical grade, which means they can be used by the country’s health care workers. To ensure quality, each PPE had to be tested by international certifying bodies, since the country has no local testing capacity for it.

A comprehensive procurement program should include different processes in the supply chain, including how each PPE is tested.

“If these steps are accounted for in the supply chain and planning of the government, stringent rules can be put in place. This is one clear advantage of sourcing the product from local manufacturer[s],” CPMP said.

“If sourced locally, the government can demand accountability on the side of the manufacturers who should not cut corners as the product being produced is aimed to save lives , and not compromise the same,” it said.

CPMP said it joined the government’s nationwide government procurement program around the end of November to December 2020, although there were members that had already been supplying to the government before that.

“CPMP members were able to garner from the above-board procurement process only 27 percent of its monthly capacity for coveralls & gowns or 815,000 units, and 69 percent of the monthly mask capacity or around 41.3 million units,” CPMP said, noting these have been produced and delivered in January and February 2021.

CPMP is composed of Medtecs International Corp. Ltd., EMS Components Assembly Inc., Reliance Producers Cooperative, Luen Thai International Group Philippines, Inc. and Tacca Industries Pty Ltd.

At a press briefing in August 2020, CPMP officials said they have 7,450 direct workers. At a Senate hearing last April, officials said they had to lay off up to 3,500 workers in the repurposed factories in December 2020, given the lack of demand.

CPMP said suppliers with substandard products from other countries could drive down prices to 36 percent lower than the price of a medical grade face mask, for example.

“It is for this reason that we call on the government specifically the DOH to set up a comprehensive stockpiling sourcing program with the DTI, and its partner manufacturers to support the long term sustainability of this emerging sector providing critically needed medical grade PPE and preserving Filipino jobs during the pandemic,” CPMP said.

CPMP said it is requesting the government to support the immediate passage of bills filed in both chambers of Congress that aim to achieve this goal to help support locally made and medical grade PPEs.

“We highly recommend for government to establish a cohesive supply chain committee program led by the DOH and DTI to work closely with the local industry in planning and implementing a National PPE Sourcing Plan as part of the Strategic National Stockpile Program,” the group said.

“The committee shall be tasked to draw up the measure of each critical steps, plan the logistics, and set up a cohesive procurement and planning program sourcing medical grade PPE produced locally, and supporting local employment,” it added.

TSB


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