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China already had supply of face masks, Duterte explains sourcing choice


People wearing face masks walk on a street market, following an outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan, Hubei province, China Feb. 8, 2021. (File photo from Reuters)

MANILA, Philippines — China already had a supply of face masks, as its citizens had been using them even before the pandemic. That’s why China was chosen as the source of face masks instead of getting them locally.

That’s how President Rodrigo Duterte explained the issue during his second taped briefing of the week that aired late Wednesday night

The government’s purchases of billions of pesos worth of allegedly overpriced medical supplies from Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., a foreign-controlled undercapitalized trading company, are currently under scrutiny amid suggestions of corruption in the process.

READ: Gordon: Senate uncovered ‘mother of all corruption’ under Duterte admin

“China [residents] all along were wearing masks even before the pandemic because in China — I went there several times — you have to wear a mask because of the pollution produced by cars,” Duterte said, speaking in Filipino.

“The people there are used to it. That’s why they have supplies. These traders know right away where to find [the masks]. If you say you need it, they can easily find it there,” he added.

He also said face masks procured there were not hastily manufactured since China had the supply all along.

“Because the question here is maybe they [the masks] were rushed, manufactured immediately just so they can make it to the bidding,” Duterte said. “China already had a stock because almost all the people there were buying [masks] because of the pollution.”

Local businessmen who invested hundreds of millions of pesos in response to calls by officials to convert their manufacturing plants to produce pandemic supplies ended up losing to Pharmally.

Pharmally director Linconn Ong earlier revealed that it was Michael Yang, a former economic adviser of the Duterte, who introduced his company’s officials were introduced to Chinese firms that could supply the medical items.

READ: Yang guaranteed to Chinese suppliers that Pharmally can pay — exec

Ong likewise admitted getting face masks at P23 per piece from a local supplier known as “Brother Tiger” to supply the government with 500,000 face masks on same-day delivery.

He admitted this after a Pharmally officer said that his firm did not have the stock to fill the government’s order.

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Pharmally exec admits getting face masks at P23 each from ‘Brother Tiger’ to supply gov’t

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