DTI’s Lopez tells oxygen industry to prepare for demand surge

THE oxygen industry can currently produce more than the market needs, but must be prepared to ramp up manufacturing by up 50% in case the coronavirus case count surges, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said.

After surveying the four domestic producers, Mr. Lopez told One News Wednesday that production of the gas, a critical medical supply for coronavirus patients, is currently at 604 tons per day while consumption is at 470 tons a day.

“There is a surplus now, but (we) need to ramp up to cover a possible surge,” he told reporters via Viber, calling a 50% increase a good starting point. 

“(We should produce) around 900 tons per day if we want to be prepared.”

New producer Cryogenics Gases will start operations in Butuan by the end of the year, he added.

“Some (producers are) planning to expand, some (are) buying more cylinder tanks, also wholesalers and resellers buying more tanks as people stock up in their homes for emergency requirements.”

The supply of oxygen and tanks was under severe strain during the recent surge in Indian coronavirus infections, prompting other countries to ship in emergency supplies.

Mr. Lopez also told One News that domestic suppliers should be preferred even though making such an award may run counter to government procurement rules.

“What we need is a new law that will say procurement, especially for government projects, pwedeng diretso bibili na para buy local rather than ibi-bid mo (at) mananalo ‘yung galing sa ibang country na mas mababa ‘yung cost (to allow buying local rather than go to a bid where a foreign supplier can undercut the Filipino company on cost).”

Personal protective equipment makers are also asking the government to create a stockpiling program that will exclusively procure locally. The industry last year said that the government continues to import most of its supply from other countries.

Assured procurement would also encourage vaccine manufacturers to establish operations in the country, Mr. Lopez said.

The Anti-Red Tape Authority is working with various agencies to shorten the processing time for vaccine manufacturers.

Permits for firms planning to do fill and finish production, in which active ingredients are imported for packaging here, should be processed within 21 days, Mr. Lopez said. — Jenina P. Ibañez

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