PHILIPPINE companies could soon start exporting medical oxygen to Indonesia, where supplies are low amid a fresh surge in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases.
The Indonesian government has been seeking emergency supplies from neighboring countries like Singapore and China as its daily need for medical oxygen rises.
Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said two local suppliers could export to Indonesia. He said at a press briefing on Monday that potential exporters should have excess supply and can still cover local demand surges if necessary.
Local oxygen producers have been urged to expand operations in case of a local surge of COVID-19 cases, he said.
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in May said that the industry must ramp up manufacturing by up to 50% in the event of a surge in local COVID-19 infections. After surveying the four domestic producers, Mr. Lopez had said that there was a surplus at the time.
New producer Cryogenics Gases will start operations in Butuan by the end of the year, he had added, noting that domestic suppliers should be preferred in government procurement.
Indonesia recorded 38,000 COVID-19 cases on both Thursday and Friday. Its daily need for oxygen has reached 1,928 tons, the Associated Press reported.
Singapore donated 1,000 oxygen cylinders and other health devices, while Australia sent 1,000 ventilators. The Southeast Asian country also plans to buy 36,000 tons of oxygen and 10,000 concentrators from Singapore.
Meanwhile, Mr. Lopez said at the same briefing that the interagency taskforce on the coronavirus could discuss increasing operational capacity for businesses with fully vaccinated employees.
“Pwede kang magdagdag, theoretically ng capacity kung safe naman ang tao du’n, bakunado na. That could be another policy, pero hindi pa sa ngayon (Theoretically, you may increase your capacity if the people are safe, fully vaccinated. That could be another policy, but not at this time),” he said.
For now, businesses that secure government safety seals — stickers displayed at establishment entry points if they comply with health safety protocols — could increase capacity by 10%.
The Health department reported 5,204 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, bringing the active cases to 49,128. — Jenina P. Ibañez