PH commercial diplomats lead production of reusable face masks for frontliners, communities

Josiah Antonio, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 23 2020 07:54 PM | Updated as of Sep 23 2020 08:43 PM

The reusable face mask to be donated under The BEA Project. Photo from Michael Alfred Ignacio, Philippine Foreign Trade Service Corps

MANILA — Some Filipino commercial diplomats led an initiative to produce reusable face mask to be donated to frontliners and communities in the country during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Michael Alfred Ignacio of Philippine Foreign Trade Service Corps said that The BEA mask is an open-source design of washable and reusable face-masks which has a feature of insertable hepa filters that can also be reused.

“Layunin ng BEA mask project ang pamimigay ng 10,000 face masks sa ating mga frontliners, at mga less-advantaged na kababayan,” Ignacio, who is based in Taiwan, told ABS-CBN News in a written interview on Wednesday.

(The purpose of BEA mask project is to give 10,000 face masks to frontliners and to our less-advantaged countrymen.)

“Para sa mas mataas na level ng protection, ang hepa filter ay ginagamit lamang kung pupunta sa isang lugar na hindi maiwasan ang social distancing, or [mataas] ang risk na mahawa sa COVID-19,” he explained.

(For a higher level of protection, the hepa filter is used only when going to areas where social distancing cannot be observed, or where the risk of getting COVID-19 is high.)

Ignacio said they started the initiative in June due to the demand of face masks in the country as wearing it has become a mandatory health protocol to avoid infection. His fellow Trade diplomats in Japan, South Korea, and Belgium -- Maria Bernardita Angara, Jose Maria Dinsay, and, Benedict Uy, respectively, are part of the project.

“Realizing the extreme importance and effectivity of wearing face masks to protect oneself against COVID-19, and the reality that not all Filipinos can afford to buy disposable face masks, which at some time were in very short supply, we decided to do our small part and tap our connections in helping our kababayans protect themselves from the scourge of the new coronavirus causing COVID-19,” the commercial diplomat said.

“Yes, this project will be distributed for free to our designated recipients,” he added, noting that handing out of the masks began Sept. 15 and is still ongoing.

Ignacio said a foundation tapped a community of disabled seamstresses in Laguna, called the United Organization of Persons with Disability, as well as Marillac Hills, a national training school for girls in need of temporary shelter and protective custody, to sew and produce the face masks in August.

“In addition to helping our kababayans get the necessary protection for themselves and their families, the project also aims at providing a momentary means of livelihood for less-fortunate, disadvantaged and differently-abled individuals who lost their regular source of income during the pandemic,” he said.

“Majority of the cost was provided by the pooled savings of all four officers,” he disclosed.

The diplomats have achieved their goal of 10,000 face masks, which have started to be distributed in various hospitals and communities.

They are planning to do more in the future, he said.

“All our private sector partners have been inspired by the work done by civil servants on their free time. They have expressed interest to work with the group again,” said Ignacio.