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Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte on Wednesday said the government should ensure an adequate and readily available supply of critical products such as medicines, vaccines, personal protective equipment (PPEs) and ventilators in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

To do so, the Camarines Sur lawmaker said he has filed a bill exempting from the payment of taxes and customs duties all goods in the entire chain of the manufacture, production and distribution of these products that have been in huge global demand since the unprecedented health and economic crisis seized the world at the onset of 2020.

Under House Bill 7135 or the proposed Pandemic Protection Act, Villafuerte also proposed that local-based manufacturers who export these critical products be required to supply as high as 80 percent of their goods to the domestic market.

“This measure promotes and protects the manufacture or production of critical products, including repurposing of existing manufacturers, and supply of critical services,” he said.

“This includes their entire supply chain including their raw materials, packaging and its raw materials,” Villafuerte said.

He said the intention of the bill “is to be able to adopt efficient and effective measures that will prevent the overburdening of the healthcare system and, at the same time, develop the healthcare and manufacturing industries by also preserving and generating employment during the crisis.”

The tax breaks proposed under HB 7135 will last for three years or until the World Health Organization (WHO) declares the end of the pandemic, said Villafuerte.

To ensure an adequate and responsive supply of critical products and supplies during the pandemic, HB 7135 requires the government as procuring entity to give preference and procure critical products manufactured, produced or made in the Philippines.

The award of the contract for such critical supplies “shall be made to the lowest domestic manufacturer-bidder provided the bid is not more than twenty percent (20%) in excess of the lowest foreign bid” and that the bidder “has secured from the DTI a certification that the products, articles, materials, or supplies are produced, made or manufactured in the Philippines.”

Villafuerte said that as part of the HB 7135-proposed incentives for manufacturers, such local sales shall be classified as export sales so the firms could meet their export requirements.

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