As the country celebrates National Heroes’ Day, opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros said the government should increase protection for health workers treating coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients by ramping up its purchase of locally-made and quality personal protective equipment (PPE) which will also help local manufacturers and businesses.
“Hindi kailangang maging martir ng mga health workers natin. Even six months into this pandemic, ensuring adequate protection for them continues to be a problem. Too many doctors and nurses have died in the line of duty. We have to better ensure that every health worker in every city or province has access to effective and affordable PPE,” she said. (Our health worker need not become martyrs.)
Hontiveros had earlier filed Senate Resolution 506 which urged the Senate to investigate the progress of the Bayanihan PPE Project, a government-led effort to boost local production of quality PPE for health workers.
The senator sought the inquiry after reports that the government has only procured 10 million of the 57.6 million PPEs being produced monthly by the Confederation of Philippine Manufacturers of PPEs (CPMP), as part of the Bayanihan PPE Project.
Hontiveros said that the lack of preference for local PPE manufacturers in favor of costlier imports from countries like China “is questionable, to say the least.”
“Our COVID-19 response budget can afford to supply more frontliners with more medical-grade equipment if we procure locally. We have the supply, we have the quality, and we have the funds — bakit patuloy pa ang mass importation natin?” Hontiveros said. (Why are medical-grade equipment being mass imported?)
“Bakit natin pipiliin ang imported PPEs na may kwestiyonableng kalidad kung kaya naman nating mag-produce ng dekalidad sa halos kaparehong presyo? Hindi praktikal ang mag-import pa, habang padami ng padami ang health workers na nagkakasakit,” she said. (Why should we choose imported PPEs with ‘’low quality’’ standard and not buy the local equipment that are of almost equal price tags? It is not practical to import while our health workers are being infected.)
Hontiveros said that this is why she is pushing her proposed Pandemic Readiness and Protection Act of 2020, Senate Bill 1796, which requires the government to give preference to qualified local manufacturers for the procurement of PPEs, medicines, and other essential supplies during a pandemic.
“Through such a policy, we can better ensure that our health workers receive the quality protection they deserve, and we can better protect a growing industry that can employ and has employed thousands of Filipino workers in a time of economic uncertainty,” she said.
The provision of more PPEs for frontliners nationwide must be done immediately, Hontiveros said, given the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the country.
Hontiveros noted that the Philippines continues to enjoy the “alarming notoriety” of having the highest rate of infections among health workers in Southeast Asia.
“In the face of suffering, Filipinos have always come out as heroes. But so much of that suffering is unnecessary. Huwag nating sayangin ang kabayanihan ng ating mga health workers,” Hontiveros said. (Let us not let the heroism of our health workers go to waste.)