PNP, NBI, DTI to probe Cebu oxygen hoarding

Emmanuel Tupas - The Philippine Star
PNP, NBI, DTI to probe Cebu oxygen hoarding
Workers refill medical grade oxygen tanks at a plant in Lapu-Lapu, Cebu yesterday.
The Freeman photo

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar ordered yesterday an investigation into alleged hoarding of oxygen tanks and other medical supplies amid the threat posed by the highly infectious Delta variant of COVID-19.

Eleazar issued the directive after Cebu City Vice Mayor Michael Rama asked the PNP and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to look into such reports.

“I have directed the Cebu City police and regional Criminal Investigation and Detection Group to coordinate with the DTI office in the area,” Eleazar said.

He said other police units should check if there are similar incidents in their areas as he stressed the need to ensure a sufficient supply of oxygen tanks in hospitals.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) would assist the PNP and DTI in their probe.

He said the NBI would help in running after and prosecuting hoarders not only in Cebu but also in other areas where COVID cases are high.

Guevarra noted that the NBI was directed to conduct an investigation of alleged hoarding and overpricing of medical supplies last year.

Adequate supply

As this developed, DTI-Central Visayas director Maria Elena Arbon assured the public that aside from ensuring adequate supply, they would monitor the price  of medical grade oxygen.

Arbon said there is no need to panic as there is more than enough supply of oxygen. She said producers are maintaining up to 14 days inventory.

Three manufacturers of medical grade oxygen in Cebu province gave assurance that they could produce up to 800 cylinders per day.

Jaime Bernadas of the Department of Health (DOH) regional office warned the public on the danger of home storage and use of medical oxygen without supervision of doctors.

Gerardo Aquino Jr., Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center chief, allayed fears over oxygen supply, saying their supplier provides the hospital up to 700 tanks per day.

“We have oxygen slots in the patient areas. We have also a backup supply from our supplier... if needed,” Aquino said.

People are reportedly buying oxygen tanks as they wait to be accommodated in hospitals or to bring to their homes as COVID-19 cases in Cebu City rise.

As of Tuesday, the city had logged 3,054 active cases; Lapu-Lapu, 1,286; Mandaue, 1,139, and Cebu province, 3,187.

Cebu City Emergency Operations Center deputy chief implementer Joel Garganera said 74 barangays recorded active cases.

Critical level

Meanwhile, the DOH Central Visayas office said four private hospitals in Cebu City are at critical level.

Three – Adventist Hospital, Cebu North General Hospital and St. Vincent Hospital – have utilization rates of 89.7 percent, 95.5 percent and 85.7 percent, respectively.

Four government hospitals are at high risk with 73.5 percent utilization rate. – Evelyn Macairan, Mitchelle Palaubsanon, Caecent No-ot Magsumbol/The Freeman

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