DAVAO — The Philippines now has the capacity to manufacture high quality medical grade personal protective equipment (PPE) and surgical masks, according to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in its report to President Rodrigo Duterte.

“When the COVID-19 pandemic started in February, the country had no local manufacturing of PPE, except for one exporter from Bataan,” DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez said during a meeting with some officials of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) on Monday.

“Similar to situations in war, the DTI and the Board of Investments (BoI) encouraged local manufacturers to re-purpose some of their manufacturing capacity into the production of critical weapons to fight the war against COVID-19, such as PPE and masks, so that the country can lessen its reliance from imports,” Lopez said.

The DTI has been working closely with local manufacturers from Confederation of Wearable Exporters of the Philippines (CONWEP), which started to switch their capacity and even bought new production lines to be able to produce high quality medical-grade PPE, according to Lopez.

“More manufacturers such as Reliance, MedTechs, EMS, Tacca eventually started and expanded their production capacity. And they now formed a new alliance called the Coalition of Philippine Manufacturers on PPE (CPMP) in the re-purposing of manufacturing facilities to produce personal protective equipment,” Secretary Lopez said.

Lopez said the initiative among local manufacturers shows the true essence of Filipino bayanihan that led to 57.6 million face masks and 3 million coveralls capacity per month.

The trade chief stressed the need for the government to patronize locally produced PPE.

He added that the re-purposing program led to new investments of $35 million and saved 7,450 jobs.

“In keeping with the whole-of-nation approach, President Duterte directed the Department of Budget and Management to prioritize buying from local producers, especially as the prices are competitive and the quality is of high-standard,” he added.