Rappler reports severe setbacks for local PPE manufacturers and jobs for Filipinos

CHEERS TO Rappler for providing the broader perspective on the questionable process that favored a foreign company over local manufacturers in providing the personal protective equipment (PPEs) health workers need. Not only do their PPEs cost less, the Filipino producers would have also provided much needed jobs for Filipinos had they been chosen by the government.

As the Commission on Audit reports continued to reveal the misuse of pandemic funds, media followed the exchange between Palace officials and senators about the dubious purchases of the health department. Witnesses and documents presented during the hearings established that government bought overpriced PPEs from Pharmally, a company registered in Singapore and owned by a foreign national. Documents also confirmed the preferential treatment given to Pharmally when it bagged multi-billion pesos worth of contracts.

Rappler related the story of EMS Components Assembly and other local companies and their struggle to provide hospitals and frontliners much needed protection. It is also illustrative of the commitment, investments, and struggles of local firms when they heeded the Trade department’s request in 2020 and started to produce quality PPEs.

Written by Sofia Tomacruz, the article was published last September 6 even before the Senate hearing on September 7 when the companies shared their experience. Rappler’s article described in detail how EMS and five other Filipino companies were “ignored” and “cheated” by the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM).

According to EMS Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Perry Ferrer, they formed themselves into a Coalition of Philippine Manufacturers of PPE (CPMP) to scale up their operations and “secured required certifications from the Philippine government and PPE testing labs in Taiwan.” But their bids went nowhere with the PS-DBM. 

EMS did secure one contract with the PS-DBM. It was worth an initial amount of PHP 1.35 billion, but EMS further lowered its price for face masks in February 2021 to PHP 523.5 million. Other CPMP members secured a combined total of PHP 347.2 million worth of orders from the government, a measly amount compared to the over PHP 8.68 B worth of contracts awarded to Pharmally.

Tomacruz also detailed the difficulties imposed by the DBM which “staggered and delayed” its orders from June to November 2020. Unable to secure enough contracts from the government, CPMP members, which had earlier planned to hire more workers, were forced to retrench 3,000 workers.

Hoping for better deals, the companies have not given up and are exploring new markets for their products, and are getting ready to supply frontliners working in other countries. 

These developments should be seen as part of a larger picture involving more than just the political stakeholders. News gains greater significance when presented as affecting people’s lives and livelihood. Reporters should find these stories to open up the news agenda to public interest and welfare.