MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday night denied overpricing in the administration's procurement of anti-coronavirus masks and face shields, which the Senate is scrutinizing.
Some senators noted the lack of a memorandum of agreement when the health department transferred some P42 billion to the budget department for the procurement.
They also asked why some appeared overpriced, including masks at P27 each and face shields worth P122 a piece.
“‘Were the purchases of mask overpriced?’, iyon ang tanong. Ang sagot is no, they are not,” Duterte said in a taped national address.
(‘Were the purchases of mask overpriced?’, that is the question. The answer is no, they are not.)
The masks were procured below the suggested retail price at that time, despite the “high demand” as countries raced to secure supplies, he said.
“It is not accurate to compare the purchase price of surgical masks at the height of COVID-19 and during the period when the supply of surgical masks began to stabilize,” the President said.
“Iyong presyo na ‘yon mataas kasi kung kakaunti lang kasi ang supply because manufactures were just producing it at that time, mahal talaga kasi walang supply, so agawan,” he added.
(That price was high because the supply was scant because manufactures were just producing it at that time, it's really expensive because there is no supply, so everyone was scrambling.)
The economic principle of supply and demand “applies in all commercial transactions,” he said.
Duterte also brought up the personal protective equipment that the previous Aquino administration bought at P3,500 per set in 2015. The current administration bought PPEs at P1,900, he said.
A copy of the purchase order dated June 23, 2016 obtained by ABS-CBN News showed that the PPEs bought by the Department of Health during the Aquino administration were sets composed of goggles, gloves, plastic shoe cover, coverall, surgical gown, N95 and surgical masks, and head cap. It was priced at P3,864 per set.
The purchase order also said the PPE sets were procured for the use of "school-based health stations/BHSs under the Health Facility Enhancement Program Management Office (HFEPMO)".
The DOH also procured a similar set of PPEs in 2015 worth P3,500 per set for the use of the Disease Prevention and Control Bureau.Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque has also brought up the Aquino government's PPE procurement. But he said earlier Thursday he was not accusing the previous administration of overpricing.
Video courtesy of PTV
Sen. Franklin Drilon, an Aquino ally, earlier said tagged Roque's remark as a “very malicious and it is a futile attempt to divert attention away from this organized plunder.”
Drilon dared Roque to identify the "backer" of Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Corp. and Lloyd Christopher Lao, who was head of the budget department's procurement service when it awarded contracts to the firm for the purchase of medical supplies.
Duterte on Monday said Lao was part of his campaign team in 2016 and helped him with legal matters before being appointed to government.
Meanwhile, Duterte's former economic adviser Michael Yang reportedly has ties to Pharmally, officials of which he introduced to the President in 2017, as seen in a Malacañang video.
Government dealt with Pharmally because it offered the lowest quotation and agreed not to receive payment if it failed to deliver supplies, said Roque.