P1 billion lost to overpriced, China-made PPEs â Hontiveros
In this Sept. 15, 2020, screengrab, Sen. Risa Hontiveros is seen attending a hybrid plenary session through video conference.
Released/Senate PRIB
P1 billion lost to overpriced, China-made PPEs — Hontiveros
Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - September 16, 2020 - 11:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday questioned the government's purchase of five million China-made personal protective equipment sets from the months of April to May, which she flagged as overpriced. 

"Out of the 11 contracts of the PPE sets, seven were with China-based companies. Why were foreign contractors favored over Filipino companies? To make matters worse, in these 11 procurements we analyzed, it appears that the PPE prices were overpriced by at least P200 per unit or P1 billion in total," she said in a mix of English and Filipino. 

Hontiveros further explained that the cost of PPEs per the estimates of the Philippine General Hospital ranges from P1200 to P1500 but the sets procured by the Department of Budget and Management's Procurement Service (PS-DBM) cost around P1700 to P2000. 

"This is one billion pesos that could have gone to more PPEs, especially during a time when an increasing number of our health workers were dying because of inadequate protection. Crucially, the one billion pesos could have also been allocated to increase the salaries of our health workers," the lawmaker added. 

'Chinese contractors prioritized over local companies'

Hontiveros also renewed her criticism of the government for its alleged prioritization of China-based companies, highlighting that three million of the five million PPE sets in question were outsourced from Chinese companies. 

She further quantified these companies as including: Xuzhou Const. Machinery Group, Wen Hua Dev't Industrial Co. Ltd., Chushen Company Ltd., Pacific Field (Hong Kong) Ltd. and Shanghai Puheng Medical Equipment Co. Ltd.

"Sa panahon na naghihingalo ang mga negosyanteng Pilipino, ang laking insulto naman na ang mga foreign companies pa ang nabigyan ng trabaho kesa sa kanila. Alam din natin na mas matindi ang quality assurance and control ng mga Philippine-made products, kaya nakakapagtataka kung bakit foreign-made ang inuna," she said.

(In these times that Filipino business-owners are struggling, it is such a big insult that foreign companies were given work before them. We also know that Philippine-made products have better quality assurance and control which is why it is confusing that foreign-made ones were prioritized.) 

According to Hontiveros, the cheapest PPE sets at P1700 were acquired by DMB from Hafid N' Erasmus Corporation, a Philippine-based company. Given this, she questioned the fact that only P30,000 units were purchased from them. 

"On the other hand, more PPE sets from foreign firms were bought," the senator said. 

The following is a list of the purchases from Chinese companies outlined by Hontiveros: 

  • 1 million PPE sets at P1,898 per unit, and an additional 250,000 sets for P2,000 per unit from Xuzhou
  • 588,000 PPE sets at 1979.56 per unit from Chushen
  • 200,000 sets for P1923 per unit from Shanghai Puheng
  • 42,000 sets at P1980.50 per unit, and an additional 800,000 sets at P1923 per unit, from Wen Hua
  • 28,000 sets at P1,900 per unit from Pacific Field

"DBM should explain these suspicious transactions. The Department of Health should also have exercised its mandate to inspect these procurements, especially since this is a vital aspect of our overall COVID-19 response," Hontiveros said. 

"Our government agencies should only answer one simple question: Bakit binigyan ng prayoridad ang Tsina bago ang Pilipinas? (Why was China given priority over the Philippines?) If they have a good answer to that, and I doubt they do, only then can they be absolved of this." 

Hontiveros: Prioritize locally-made PPEs

The senator last month called on government to buy more locally-made personal protective equipment both to protect medical frontliners and to help boost local businesses.

"Our COVID-19 response budget can afford to supply more frontliners with more medical-grade equipment if we procure locally. We have the supply, we have the quality, and we have the funds — why are we still mass importing?" she said in a mix of English and FIlipino.

In addition to seeking a probe through Senate Resolution no. 506, Hontiveros also filed Senate Bill No. 1796 which "requires government to give preference to qualified local manufacturers for the procurement of PPEs, medicines and other essential supplies during a pandemic."

"Through such a policy, we can better ensure that our health workers receive the quality protection they deserve, and we can better protect a growing industry that can employ and has employed thousands of Filipino workers in a time of economic uncertainty," she said.

During a Laging Handa briefing last month, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez maintained the government is prioritizing the purchase of locally-produced PPEs.

However, when pressed on whether the government has committed to purchasing a particlular amount of protective equipment from local manufacturers, Lopez said no such number had been decided yet.

"We have no commitment as to the number but under 'Bayanihan 2', all things equal, especially the standard, we still have preference for local manufacturers," he said in a mix of English and FIlipino.

"Bayanihan 2" provides funding for programs to help mitigate the effects of the pandemic like economic slowdown.

According to Hontiveros, as of last month, only 10 million of the 57.6 million PPEs being produced monthly by the Confederation of Philippine Manufacturers of PPEs were procured by the government as part of the Bayanihan PPE Project.

COVID-19 DBM DEPARTMENT OF BUDGET AND MANAGEMENT NOVEL CORONAVIRUS
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