MANILA – Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez said the country must be less reliant on imports particularly for products that are essential during the pandemic.

In his keynote speech at the Bayanihan: Rebuild Industries and Save Jobs in Laguna and Cavite on Friday, Lopez said the DTI and the Board of Investments (BOI) targets to build local capacity of many products in order to meet the domestic demand.

At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Lopez said it was a challenge for the country to import products such as face masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) as other countries are prioritizing the needs of their respective markets.

Before the Covid-19 outbreak in the Philippines, the country only had one manufacturer for medical-grade face masks with a capacity of 2 million pieces per month. The country was also reliant on imports in sourcing PPE coveralls.

But the DTI and BOI have pushed for local production of these critical products amid the pandemic by repurposing the facilities of manufacturers.

Lopez said the country can now produce 56 million face masks in a month.

“We had to be self-reliant. That was the idea. We have to build our own capacity,” he said.

He stressed that while industries are building the domestic capacity, there is also a need to encourage buyers to source products from local manufacturers.

“We are working on localization and we welcome a lot of import products at almost zero duties. But once we are able to encourage local manufacturers and if the capacity is here, our recommendation is to use the local supply of the manufacturers,” the trade chief said.

He underscored that buying from Philippine-based manufacturers will help in saving local jobs.

“Rather than import where we save the jobs abroad, if we buy local, we save the jobs here and we generate jobs locally for Filipinos. That’s the reason we wanted to build production capacity, relying less on imports. We build the capacity so that capacity will supply and meet the demand for a growing economy,” said Lopez. (PNA)