Senator Risa Hontiveros has asked the Department of Budget (DBM) and the Department of Health (DOH) to explain the "overpriced" procurement of China-made personal protective equipment (PPEs) at a time when the country is still struggling in its pandemic response.
"Out of the 11 contracts of the PPE sets, 7 were with China-based companies. Bakit inuna ang mga dayuhang kontraktor bago ang mga Pilipinong kumpanya (Why were foreign contractors prioritized over Philippine companies)?" Senator Risa Hontiveros asked in a statement on Wednesday, September 16.
Hontiveros noted that the procurements made by the DBM appeared to be overpriced by at least P200 per unit or P1 billion in total.
She said in a separate statement on Sunday, September 20, that "the P1-billion loss is even a conservative estimate."
Hontiveros said that the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) estimates that PPE sets only cost P1,200 to P1,500, while PPE sets procured by the DBM range from P1,700 to P2,000.
She said the P1 billion could have been spent on purchasing more PPEs or allocated to the salaries of health workers.
“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,” she added.
Hontiveros noted that more than half or nearly 3 million of the 5 million PPE sets procured by the government were sourced from Chinese companies even if they cost more.
She compared this with the measly 30,000 units procured from Philippine-based company Hafid N' Erasmus Corporation which offered the cheapest PPE sets – P1,700 per set – on DBM's list.
“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.
(It's a huge insult that at a time when Philippine businessmen are struggling to survive, foreign companies were given business instead of them. We also known that Philippine-made products have more rigid quality assurance and control so it's puzzling why foreign-made [PPE sets] were prioritized.)
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said in a separate statement that manufacturing face masks and other protective apparel is "not a rocket science" and is already being done locally.
"Not all of the things we need today should be sourced from China, even if it is the world’s factory," Recto said, adding that tapping local manufacturers would create much-needed jobs for Filipinos.
The COVID-19 outbreak in the country has claimed over 4,700 lives and left 4.6 million Filipinos jobless. (READ: Unemployment down to 10% in July 2020, says Philippine gov't)
As of Wednesday, the Philippines still has the highest number of COVID-19 infections in Southeast Asia at 272,934, despite having one of the longest lockdowns in the world. – Rappler.com