President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the immediate release of badly-needed medical equipment and supplies in the fight against coronavirus disease 2019 that got stuck pending the Food and Drug Administration of the Philippines' approval.
“The rapid tests that we would like to buy were hostaged,” Duterte said during his public address on Monday with the members of the Inter-Agency Task Force, noting that “there's a rule that we cannot use public funds to buy medical supplies, medicines, without the FDA signal.”
He said the assessment should come from the Department of Health particularly the FDA but “nobody seems would like to act on it in a jiffy.”
Duterte said he would take the risk and order the purchase despite not having been issued approval by the FDA as long as the supplies and equipment are USFDA-approved in a bid to hasten the procurement process.
“I am clearing the way by ordering the purchase [as there was no assessment from local FDA yet]. But what we are trying to buy outside is approved by the FDA United States of America," said Duterte, as he expressed confidence on products with USFDA approval.
“So in a sense that almost all of what we eat, buy products of all sorts. Once it was approved by FDA from the US, we are confident about it," he said.
Duterte said the Department of Health through the local FDA has the task to assess the “PCR testing kits of 900 people".
He said these include "essential kits and other kits in activation supplies, [PCR] consumables, seven [PCR] machines, 10 automated extracting machine and 10 biomedical freezer additional equipment for subnational and regional testing laboratories.”
He, however, said that he does “not really believe that they would do more testing".
"If there was not assessment from the DOH, we could not purchase. I'm clearing the way. I will ask [Heath] Secretary [Francisco] Duque to talk to the people in charge [Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr.] and they can proceed to buy it immediately as fast as you can really do the procurement at this time,” he said.
Duterte stressed the urgency of having the supplies and equipment available because, “we are all in this, the entire world” in the fight against Covid-19.
The Philippines had a total of 4,932 confirmed cases of Covid-19 including 284 new additional cases as of April 13. A total of 242 was recorded to have recovered while the death toll reached 315.