The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has formally turned over to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) the Enhanced Manufacturing of Protective Wear and Equipment for COVID-19 Response in the Philippines (EMPOWER PH), an online platform that connects suppliers and manufacturers to facilitate and accelerate the production and distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the country.
EMPOWER PH is an online platform that provides a business matchmaking space for suppliers of materials, PPE manufacturers, and buyers in response to the sustained demand for non-medical use PPE and facemasks.
Launched in November 2020, the website helps garments manufacturing MSMEs to shift to today’s demand requirements and serve as a centralized information hub for product technical design packs and manufacturing best practices based on government-approved standards and international guidelines, as well as a vetting mechanism to ensure the quality of products featured.
DTI Undersecretary Rafaelita Aldaba cited the wide potential of the platform in keeping sustained economic activities, given that the Philippines is prone to natural disasters.
EMPOWER PH aims not only to contribute to the supply and promotion of locally produced PPE and facemasks but also to implement standards and guidelines in their production given the situation that the majority of the MSMEs are either closed or operating in a reduced capacity due to the continuing COVID-19 situation.
Maria Luisa Isabel Lim-Jolongbayan, Team Leader, Institutions and Partnerships of the UNDP, said they want to ensure that EMPOWER PH will continue to be a platform where local MSMEs will have access to information that will enable them to participate and compete in the market.
EMPOWER PH takes pride in its five-point vetting process, a method that serves as the checkpoints to make sure that the products sold are certified safe and pass the level of quality that is aligned with the standards and guidelines from the Department of Health (DOH), World Health Organization (WHO) and Bureau of Philippine Standards (BPS).
Aldaba explained that while online shopping platforms provide easy access to PPE supplies, there are no means to check for compliance and safety.
“At the same time, consumers should also be empowered. With EMPOWER PH’s vetting process, we are protecting them by making sure that the PPEs and face masks that they buy are comfortable to wear and safe to use.”
Under the initiative, eight sewing groups from Metro Manila have passed the vetting process in 2020. These organizations have signed up in the EMPOWER PH platform and are now able to showcase their products online.
“We continue to support the expansion of the platform to include medical PPEs, as well as other disaster response needs in the future because we believe that it is necessary for the platform to stay relevant and useful,” UNDP Resident Representative Dr. Selva Ramachandran added, expressing the agency’s continued support for the program.
The UNDP EMPOWER PH team has also started coordinating with other UNDP groups and other LGUs to address the demand for PPE. UNDP will also finish mapping the supply chain of RT-PCR testing for possible expansion of services.