DTI assures ample medical oxygen supply, capacities

Published May 14, 2021, 3:44 PM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

There is ample supply of medical oxygen in the country while production capacity can still accommodate even up to 50 percent increase in demand, according to Trade and industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez.

Lopez made this assurance amid reports of tight supply during the surge in COVID-19 cases in the country, exacerbated by the shortage for medical oxygen supply in India whose alarming COVID cases became a global concern.

According to Lopez, monthly medical oxygen consumption is 12,200 tons or 460 tons based on 26-day consumption level.

In terms of supply, Lopez said that the three local medical oxygen suppliers have daily capacity of 604 tons or 18,120 tons monthly.

Despite this sufficient supply-demand situation, Lopez has called for higher capacity to cover for potential surge in demand to avoid what happened in India. To be prepared for any eventuality, Lopez said stressed the need to ramp up capacity by 50 percent or around 900 tons per day maximum capacity.

Already, a fourth medical oxygen producer Cryogenics Gases is expected to start commercial operation in the third or fourth quarter this year. Based in Butuan, the company is awaiting technical consultant affected by travel ban. The Board of Investments is assisting the project proponent, he said.

“We can manage up to 50 percent increase but before reaching that, even now, producers have to plan for any eventual increase so need to ramp up. You don’t need to wait to reach maximum capacity,” he explained.

Aside from ramping up local production, the DTI is also recommending for government to stock up on oxygen concentrators, that can augment the supply of medical oxygen for critical patients.

“Currently, there are no producers of oxygen concentrators in the country and we are sure that the Department of Science and Technology (DOST)’s scientist and engineer community can develop this equipment that can be commercially manufactured locally, similar to what was done on ventilators,” Lopez added.

“In the meantime, we encourage the strategic stockpiling of these critical equipment such as cylinders, tanks, and concentrators, so we have assured supply at any given point in time. We need to pass a law that will allow government to stockpile and budget for this. Thus, we support the bill on Strategic Stockpiling filed by Philippine Red Cross Chairman and Senator Richard Gordon,” the trade chief said.