MANILA - Sen. Imee Marcos on Thursday pushed to exempt local medical supply manufacturers from some taxes to ensure that Filipino-owned businesses would be more competitive against their international counterparts amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis.
Under Marcos' Senate Bill No. 1708, local manufacturers of medical supplies - especially personal protective equipment - will not be required to pay "import duties on raw materials and equipment, value-added taxes.
"Clearly what we need to do is to finally establish health security or, at the very least, PPE security, by producing these supplies locally," Marcos said in a statement.
The government should also be "initiating the stockpiling of their raw materials and encouraging repurposing and innovation among willing Filipino manufacturers," she said.
Under the proposal, local manufacturers of medical supplies will also be entitled to "export incentives even on their output for domestic consumption."
"Waiving export requirements during a crisis and crediting output for local needs will allow a major industry like the garments industry to preserve hundreds of thousands of jobs and even to expand," said Marcos, who chairs the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs.
The Philippines scrambled for medical supplies and PPEs for frontliners in the first quarter of 2020, when the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) began to spread in the country.
Several celebrity designers and ateliers have shifted from making gowns to producing PPEs for doctors and nurses while the government was still sourcing supplies abroad.
The bill can also help expand the country's current production capacity of 300,000 PPEs per month, and avoid controversies about the alleged overpricing of COVID-19-related equipment, she said.
"During health emergencies, we should give priority to local manufacturers when the government needs to procure PPE and other medical supplies," the senator said.
"But their production capacities must be strengthened first," she said.