Filipino workers lost jobs, local manufacturers take a hit when Duterte gov’t picked foreign firms to supply pandemic supplies, says Villanueva

Filipino workers lost jobs, local manufacturers take a hit when Duterte gov’t picked foreign firms to supply pandemic supplies, says Villanueva

By Ernie Reyes

MANILA — By choosing a foreign entity to provide for the government’s
supply requirement of personal protective equipment, thousands of
Filipino workers were left without jobs as appeals of local
manufacturers to patronize locally-made PPEs fell on deaf ears,
Senator Joel Villanueva lamented.

At the hearing of the Senate blue ribbon committee into the audit
findings of the Department of Health (DOH), Villanueva pointed out
that it was important to raise the issue of unemployment in the
investigation of the alleged irregularities in the purchase of PPE
sets from Chinese company Pharmally.

Villanueva described the Procurement Service-Department of Budget and
Management (PS-DBM) as the “kontrabida” of Filipino workers and local
manufacturers who were left hanging in the air as the pandemic brought
local business to its knees.

“Ano po ang tama nito sa mga manggagawa?” said Villanueva, chair of
the Senate labor committee during the hearing. “Narinig po natin na
ang mga local manufacturers na kasama sa Confederation of Wearable
Exporters of the Philippines ay kinailangang mag-retrench ng 25,400 na
empleyado noong nakaraang taon.”

Villanueva’s statements came after Fernando Ferrer, chairman and CEO
of Filipino electronics assembly firm EMS, disclosed that his company
and several others responded to the call of the government to retool
their manufacturing facilities to produce PPEs. Filipino companies
were left holding an empty bag when the PS-DBM awarded P8.7-billion
worth of supply contracts to Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp.

If the clear provisions under Bayanihan laws which called on the
government to have a preference in the procurement for PPEs from local
manufacturers were enforced, Filipino workers would have been able to
hang on to their jobs and provide for the needs of their families.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that the total
import value for PPEs and medical supplies as of June 2021 increased
to about US$71.96M, which is roughly P3.60 billion.

“Parang klaro po dito na ang kontrabida sa paglikha ng trabaho ay ang
PS-DBM mismo,” Villanueva said during the hearing. “Ilang manggagawa
ang natulungan sana.”

Replying to Villanueva’s question, Ferrer said his company hired 350
workers at the height of production of PPEs. Ferrer said 200 more
workers would have been hired had the EMS been allowed to continue
delivering face masks that had already been finished.

Patronizing locally-made PPEs not only would support the local
manufacturers who would be able to retain their workers, but it would also
likewise support local economies, the lawmaker stated. (ai/mtvn)

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