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PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte’s marching order to the Philippine National Police (PNP) to arrest and detain persons caught not wearing face masks and face shields is laudable but still badly missing supporting elements seen to balance the economy.

The President cited the need for compliance to minimum public health safety protocols, which include the mandatory use of face masks and face shields for the public and personal protective equipment (PPE) for the frontliners. That’s fine by me, as it would somehow reduce the risk of further spread of the deadly virus from Wuhan, China.

But from the standpoint of a Filipino, the President — who has time and again cited the need for the country to jumpstart the economy — could have addressed a supplemental order to government agencies involved in the country’s COVID-19 response to secure the medical logistics from local manufacturers and suppliers.  

With all certainty, the order for the mandatory use of protective face masks and face shields and the arrest of those defying the minimum public health safety protocols, would trigger a sudden surge on the demand of medical logistics predominantly coming from the country where all these problems originated.

And taking cue from what has earlier been reported in various news platforms, the bulk of China-made face masks and face shields swarming the local market are not even medical grade – and worse, sub-standard.

Blame it to the existing procurement law, says the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

That is totally unacceptable. These substandard face masks and face shields may cost cheaper by a few centavos, but useless. It won’t reduce the risks of contamination. These China-made products defeat the purpose for its use, or simply just a waste of money.

Interestingly, we have a deep chest from where we could actually source them. We don’t even have to go far because Taytay town [located adjacent eastern Metro Manila] hosts a fleet of workers who are more than willing to provide a significant chunk of the demand.  

DTI must have forgotten that as early as April last year, Taytay has proven how capable they are in mass producing face masks and re-usable personal protective equipment for the frontliners.

It’s high time for the national government to consider buying PPEs from the local manufacturers. It’s high time the government focus on purchasing Filipino-made PPEs to help the textile industry suffering from the flooding supply of sub-standard China-made medical logistics.

The Bayanihan law that was signed last year by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte provides standard rules set by the government in procuring re-usable PPEs – one of which defines the need for medical-grade PPEs. Taytay PPE makers have met the standards and are still unable to secure procurement orders from the national government agencies.  

The way the government purchases PPE, it is subject to certain standard rules for purchasing, which we can meet. Taytay PPE makers go beyond that. 

My take: Hear the plea of our local garments industry which has repurposed and reinvested to have the policies especially under the pandemic act. Focusing on Filipino-made PPEs will somehow help the government resuscitate the ailing economy.

It is one way of balancing public health and economy.

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