Recto wants 'Buy Filipino' provision restored in 2022 budget

Published September 8, 2021, 10:19 AM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Wednesday, September 8, pushed for a “Buy Filipino” provision in the 2022 national budget to make sure that the government would prioritize local products over foreign-made supplies in its procurements.

In this file photo, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on September 14, 2020 asks officials of the Department of Budget and Management for a detailed list of programs and projects that were discontinued due to the 2020 realignments to fund the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act. (Senate PRIB)

Such provision should be put back in the appropriations law to help struggling domestic businesses during the pandemic, Recto said.

“Wala pang COVID[-19], meron nang ganung batas noon. Eh di mas lalo na ngayon na kailangan ng mga naghihingalong lokal na kumpanya ng benta upang manatili silang bukas at hindi magsisante ng mga manggagawa (Even before COVID-19, we have such a rule. All the more that local companies need it so they can keep operating and not lay off workers),” Recto said in his statement.

“Para sa maraming kumpanya, benta ang mainam na bakuna laban sa pagsasara kaysa kakarampot na ayuda (For many companies, sales are the more effective vaccines against closure more than the meager aid it receives from the government),” he added, stressing that the government is a “big supplies and equipment buyer”.

The Senate leader issued the call after the Blue Ribbon Committee found Tuesday, September 7, that a local manufacturer of medical-grade face masks suffered losses after it was forced to lower their price to P2.35, from the P13.50 unit price agreed upon in their award in April, 2020.

On the other hand, the Department of Budget and Management’s Procurement Service (DBM-PS) awarded at least three contracts to Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation, a foreign supplier, for the same item with a price ranging from P22 to P27.72 per piece.

“Nakakabahala na malaman na ‘yong local supplier natin (It’s worrisome that our local supplier) would supply it for P13.50, for P2.50, and yet binigay ‘yong kontrata sa (contracts were given to a) foreigner…whose prices are double the price [of locally-made products],” Recto said during the hearing.

The senator noted that if the “Buy Filipino” provision was part of the 2020 national budget, “foreign carpetbaggers” would not have been able to corner government’s bulk procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE), face masks and face shields.

“It would have provided some deterrence,” he said.

Recto urged the Senate to restore this in the 2022 General Appropriations Bill that it would pass.

He noted that the requirement was present in the annual budgets but was removed in 2014.

The 2013 General Appropriations Act stated that “priority shall be given to the purchase of locally-produced and manufactured materials to be undertaken either by administration or by contract.”

Covered by the rule were “foreign-assisted projects whose covering loan agreements expressly allow or do not prohibit the same.”

If the quality of the locally-produced and manufactured material is sub-standard compared with its imported counterpart, or if no if no locally-produced and manufactured material is available, then importation was also allowed, Recto recalled.

Senators have questioned the DBM-PS’ grant of over P8 billion worth of contracts to Pharmally, which they observed lacked the track record in supplying PPEs and medical equipment for the Department of Health.