By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — The purchase of billions of pesos of PPEs, face shields and
masks from China – when better quality locally-produced ones were
available at a far lower price – underscores the need to restore the
“Buy Filipino” provision in the national budget, Senate President Pro
Tempore Ralph Recto said.
Recto said the provision, present in the general appropriations laws
proposed and signed by presidents from Marcos to Aquino III,
disappeared in the 2014 national budget.
Before its scrapping, the Buy Filipino provision mandates government
to prioritize the procurement of Philippine-made products.
Recto said the Buy Filipino provision should be put back in the
national budget to help struggling domestic manufacturers keep
operating and meet payroll during the pandemic.
Recto said if the Buy Filipino provision was part of the 2020 national
budget, “foreign carpetbaggers” would not have been able to corner
the government’s bulk procurement of face shields, PPEs, and masks last
year. “It would have provided some deterrence.”
In the wake of the “calamitous domination by a fly-by-night,
undercapitalized, zero track record foreign-owned company in a big
PS-DBM-DOH contract”, “a united Senate” should reinstate the Buy
Philippine-Made provision in the 2022 national budget, Recto said.
But pandemic or not, there is a “vibrant domestic manufacturing
industry” that can supply the government’s annual shopping list of
supplies and equipment, Recto said.
“Wala pang COVID, meron nang ganung batas noon. Eh di mas lalo na
ngayon na kailangan ng mga naghihingalong lokal na kumpanya ng benta
upang manatili silang bukas at hindi magsisante ng mga manggagawa,”
The kind of aid local companies would prefer is that government buy
from them instead of giving them bailouts, he said.
“Para sa maraming kumpanya, benta ang mainam na bakuna laban sa
pagsasara kaysa kakarampot na ayuda “
He described the government as a big supply and equipment buyer,
with a budget in the hundreds of billions annually. “From soap to
cars, from paper to guns, the government buys these in bulk.”
When the Buy Filipino provision made its last appearance in 2013
General Appropriations Act, stated that “priority shall be given to
the purchase of locally-produced and manufactured materials to be
undertaken either by administration or by contract.”
Covered by the rule were “foreign-assisted projects whose covering
loan agreements expressly allow or do not prohibit the same.”
If the quality of the locally-produced and manufactured material is
sub-standard compared with its imported counterpart, then importation
was also allowed, Recto added.
The third exception was “if no locally-produced and manufactured
material is available as certified by the Department of Trade and
Industry,” Recto said.
“As you can see, it was a balanced rule. While preference was
stipulated, it was not a blanket mandate to buy pricey local lemons
simply because they’re made by Filipinos,“ he said. (ai/mtvn)