THE government said it has created a simplified process for the import of medical and protective products urgently needed to contain the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID 19) outbreak.

The Department of Finance, the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a joint memorandum circular Saturday to streamline procedures for government agencies dealing with imports of such goods.

The goods covered by the new process include personal protective equipment and medical supplies identified by the health department as COVID-19-critical commodities.

Under the so-called one-stop-shop system, applications for such imports will be managed through a single window.

Systems of the agencies that have to sign off on such imports will also be interconnected through website links and a single messaging platform, with transactions with the FDA and BoC (Bureau of Customs) done online. Applications for imports or licenses to operate (LTO) with the FDA and BoC will automatically prompt other agencies to e-mail the applicant for information and monitoring processes.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (for private corporations/partnerships), the Department of Trade and Industry (for sole proprietorships, the Cooperative Development Authority, or the Governance Commission for Government-owned and controlled corporations may immediately verify the importer’s legitimacy.

The joint memorandum said that all FDA post-import rules, including distribution, advertisement, use and disposal, will continue to be applied to all imported COVID-19 critical commodities. 

FDA rules on health product registration, post-license to operate inspection, and post-market surveillance will apply to all establishments issued the provisional LTO after the national public health emergency has been lifted.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte on March 9 declared a state of public health emergency. Congress on March 24 approved the grant of special powers to the President to deal with the pandemic. 

The system was operational beginning April 3 and will run until the state of emergency has been lifted.

Covered by the streamlined procedures are gloves, gowns, coveralls, bodysuits, face masks, goggles, face shields, shoe covers, head covers, and boots.

Other covered medical supplies include all types of adhesives, preformed anchors, bandages, base paste, reusable cannula, caps (disinfection, seal, taper, dead end), analog clinical thermometers (except mercurial type), cotton for medical use, dressing, flow meters, gauze, examining/non-sterile gloves, lubricating gel, luer locks, nasal spray, nasopharyngeal airway, stopcocks, sterile surgical drapes, syringes without needles, and medical tape. 

The list may be updated by the Health department.

ARTA was designated to coordinate the processing between the agencies. Daily and weekly reports on the goods imported through the one-stop-shop will also be submitted to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF). — Jenina P. Ibañez