By Genalyn Kabiling
In line with strengthening precautions against the coronavirus threat in the country, the government has offered tax incentives to encourage companies to increase the production of face masks.
According to Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, face mask manufacturers can enjoy an income tax holiday and duty-free importation of their capital equipment for the next four years.
“Another growing concern is the apparent shortage of face masks in the market,” Nograles said in the “Laging Handa” (Always Ready) press briefing in Malacañang.
“DTI is also encouraging other firms to manufacture face masks and through its Board of Investments (BOI) can offer incentives such as four-year income tax holiday and duty-free importation of capital equipment,” he said.
So far, Nograles said the government has obtained a commitment from companies to produce 1.6 million N88 surgical masks for the next four weeks to meet the growing demand. These masks are expected to supply not only the general public needs, but also the needs of the Department of Health and the Philippine Red Cross, he added.
“While we have yet to report a single case of COVID-19 being transmitted to a Filipino within our shores, we are ready to test all potential carriers to prevent local transmission of the disease,” he said.
Amid the reports of a shortage of the protective item, Heath Secretary Francisco Duque III has appealed for the judicious use of face masks.
Such masks are recommended for people who have flu-like symptoms to avoid infecting others, as well as health workers providing care to sick patients, Duque said.
“We do not encourage the use of masks among people who are not manifesting symptoms of flu, cough, and colds. If there’s fever, you want the person to stay put in place, to continue to wear mask so as not to contaminate, infect others in same household,” he said in the same Palace press briefing.
“The paramount objective is to ensure in face of global shortage of masks, N-88, we have to be judicious in use of such and limiting it to our health workers.”
He said the health workers are in the “frontlines in the provision of care to patients” and must be on the “top of the totem pole of prioritizations.”
The new coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China, has rapidly spread to several countries, including the Philippines, in recent weeks. The latest public health emergency has sent people scrambling for face masks as a precaution against the virus.
The trade department recently said retailers might be allowed to sell face masks at higher prices due to rising cost of raw materials. Authorities earlier warned vendors against unreasonable increase in mask prices, saying such violation is tantamount to profiteering.