MANILA - The Philippine government is helping local companies and scientists set up an "independent" manufacturing system that will produce globally scant gear needed to contain the coronavirus pandemic, a regulatory agency said Friday.
Three textile companies recently told the Food and Drug Administration that they wanted to convert their facilities to produce surgical masks, while another group is developing a locally-produced ventilator that will help COVID-19 patients breathe, said the agency's Director General Eric Domingo.
"Tinutulungan na rin natin sila," he told DZMM.
(We are also helping them.)
Some liquor and bio-fuel companies earlier volunteered to make disinfectant alcohol, supply of which ran short in some stores along with protective masks, said Domingo.
"Nagkakaubusan po kasi kahit gustong bumili, nag-aagawan po ng supplies [ang iba't ibang bansa]. Kailangan pong magkaroon tayo ng sariling independent manufacturing," he said.
(Supplies are short even if we want to import these because countries are scrambling to get them. We need to have our own independent manufacturing.)
The Philippines is looking for an overseas source of ventilators in China and Korea. It also recently received some 108,000 donated test kits, said Domingo.
To pass Customs clearance, test kits and protective gear for heath workers only need documents proving the supplier has a license to operate and that FDA was notified of the delivery, he said.
The health department on Friday will accredit additional suppliers of test kits, a list of which can be found on the FDA website. Most of those in the list are also accredited by the US, Singapore, Korea and China, he said.
"'Wag po nilang bibilhin [kung wala sa listahan] dahil hindi pa po tayo sigurado sa ganyan at ibig sabihin hindi pa po aprubado dito, hindi po nila maipapasok," he told the public.
(Don't buy test kits that are not on the list because we are not sure of their quality, they are not yet approved here and their import will be banned.)
The University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health is working "double time" to conduct field tests needed for the mass distribution of the first Filipino-made COVID-19 test kits, Domingo said earlier this week.
A shortage of test kits had limited screening procedures to those with symptoms of the respiratory disease and "high-risk" patients that include the elderly and those with underlying health problems.
The Philippines as of Thursday confirmed 45 deaths and 28 patients who recovered out of its total 707 cases of the disease.
The entire Luzon, home to around half of the Philippines' 100 million people, is under lockdown until April 12 to contain the pandemic.