Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday said there is evidence that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) entered into 11 contracts to purchase overpriced personal protective equipment (PPEs) mostly from Chinese companies.
Hontiveros said the DBM should explain the procurement of these PPEs, which they purchased at the height of the strict lockdowns the government Task Force Against COVID-19 enforced in April and May to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
“You want evidence? Here are 11 pieces. DBM should plainly explain these contracts. Huwag nilang linlangin ang taong bayan gamit ang pagpapa-ikot ng maling impormasyon (They shouldn’t deceive the people by giving them wrong information). What we need is clarity,” Hontiveros said.
Based on their studies of the contracts, Hontiveros said the DBM awarded contracts to Xuzhou Const. Machinery Group, Wen Hua Development Industrial Co., Ltd., Chushen Co. Ltd., Nikka Trading, Pacific Field (Hong Kong Ltd.), Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., Xuzhou Const. Machinery Group Import and Export Co. Ltd., Warmus Trading, Shanghai Puheng Medical Equipment Co. Ltd., and Hafid N’ Erasmus Corporation.
The DBM also signed four contracts with local companies but signed more contracts with Chinese companies whose prices were higher.
The senator said the DBM shouldn’t claim that local companies were not capable of producing PPEs during the start of the pandemic because as early as Feb. 6, Medtex-a Bataan-based firm had announced it is capable of producing two million face masks monthly. The company, she pointed out, also has a sister company, Medtec Group of Companies, that can produce PPEs.
“Bakit hindi sa mga katulad nila nag-negotiate ang DBM? Bakit inuna ang foreign companies (Why didn’t DBM negotiate with local companies like them? Why did they prioritize foreign companies?),” she asked.
Of the 11 contracts, the lawmaker also said three of these were signed at the time when the Department of Health (DOH) imposed a price freeze.
“Almost P1,000 lang dapat ang cost ng isang PPE set kung sa local companies binili. (One set of PPE only costs about P1,000 if these were bought from local companies). But no, DBM opted to transact with Chinese firms,” she lamented.
“That’s why a P1-billion overpricing is highly conservative (estimate),” she pointed out.
“We have so many questions for the DBM, and again, we do need answers to better inform our budget deliberations in the Senate,” she said.