Villanueva: Pinoy workers lost jobs, local manufacturers take a hit when PS-DBM picked foreign firm to supply gov’t PPE requirement
By choosing a foreign entity to provide for the government’s supply requirement of personal protective equipment, thousands of Filipino workers were left without jobs as appeals of local manufacturers to patronize locally-made PPEs fell on deaf ears, Senator Joel Villanueva lamented.
At the hearing of the Senate blue ribbon committee into the audit findings of the Department of Health (DOH), Villanueva pointed out that it was important to raise the issue of unemployment in the investigation of the alleged irregularities in the purchase of PPE sets from Chinese company Pharmally.
Villanueva described the Procurement Service-Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) as the “kontrabida” of Filipino workers and local manufacturers who were left hanging in the air as the pandemic brought local business to its knees.
“Ano po ang tama nito sa mga manggagawa?” said Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee during the hearing. “Narinig po natin na ang mga local manufacturers na kasama sa Confederation of Wearable Exporters of the Philippines ay kinailangang mag-retrench ng 25,400 na empleyado noong nakaraang taon.”
Villanueva’s statements came after Fernando Ferrer, chairman and CEO of Filipino electronics assembly firm EMS, disclosed that his company and several others responded to the call of the government to retool their manufacturing facilities to produce PPEs. Filipino companies were left holding an empty bag when the PS-DBM awarded P8.7-billion worth of supply contracts to Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp.
“Narinig po natin na ang mga local manufacturers na kasama sa Confederation of Wearable Exporters of the Philippines ay kinailangang mag-retrench ng 25,400 na empleyado noong nakaraang taon.”
If the clear provisions under Bayanihan laws which called on the government to have a preference in the procurement for PPEs from local manufacturers were enforced, Filipino workers would have been able to hang on to their jobs and provide for the needs of their families.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that the total import value for PPEs and medical supplies as of June 2021 increased to about US$71.96M, which is roughly P3.60 billion.
“Parang klaro po dito na ang kontrabida sa paglikha ng trabaho ay ang PS-DBM mismo,” Villanueva said during the hearing. “Ilang manggagawa ang natulungan sana.”
Replying to Villanueva’s question, Ferrer said his company hired 350 workers at the height of production of PPEs. Ferrer said 200 more workers would have been hired had the EMS been allowed to continue delivering face masks that had already been finished.
Patronizing locally-made PPEs not only would support the local manufacturers who would be able to retain their workers, it would likewise support local economies, the lawmaker stated.