The government has now streamlined the process of importing medical equipment and personal protective equipment (PPEs) for commercial use, due to the high demand for such products amid the global health crisis brought about by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) said on Wednesday.
Importers of PPEs and medical equipment will only have to present their certificate of registration to clear the release of the shipments, said ARTA director general Jeremiah Belgica.
“Ang kadalasan ho diyan na nagiging problema ngayon is ‘yung mga importation ng mga PPEs tsaka ‘yung mga medical products and supplies na for commercial use,” said Belgica.
“‘Yung mga gustong mag-ano ngayon, mag-import for commercial use, ang aming gagawin ngayon together with the FDA is isa na lang ang kanilang ibigay na requirement —proof of registration ng company,” he also said.
Belgica was referring to the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), whose clearance was previously needed before shipments could be released to importers.
According to Belgica, the government is also set to launch on April 2, 2020, an online one-stop-shop to further streamline the importation of PPEs and medical supplies.
“Unahin natin doon sa Customs kasi napakahalaga ng ating pagpasok ng mga medical supplies, ‘yung mga PPEs. Ngayon ito’y finish touches and we are addressing it. Ito’y mag-lo-launch kami ng tinatawag na Bayanihan One-Stop-Shop kung saan naka-link na ang processes ng FDA at tsaka BOC,” he said.
“Hopefully by tomorrow (Thursday) ito’y operational na rin. Ito ang pinakaunang ginawa at hopefully within a day’s time matapos ang processing for both FDA and BOC — online 100 percent,” Belgica said.
Meanwhile, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) on Wednesday said it would exempt shipments of PPEs and medical supplies from documentary requirements to expedite their release amid demand as the country battles COVID-19.
Under Customs Administrative Order (CAO) 07-2020, the agency said it would exempt importers of PPEs and medical equipment from presenting documents such as the Certificate of Product Notification (CPN) or Certificate of Product Registration (CPR) from the FDA.
“The aim of this CAO is to expedite customs clearance of tax and duty-exempt importations of PPEs and medical goods which are urgently needed by the country’s citizens, frontliners, and medical supplies manufacturers in this public health emergency we are currently facing,” the BOC said in a statement.
It said the order also complies with the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which stresses the need to urgently import protective gear for medical workers and patients.
The lack of personal protective equipment in hospitals for frontliners and patients alike has pushed many facilities from both the public and private sectors to start fundraisers to purchase PPEs amid the rise of COVID-19 infections in the country, which have risen to 2,084 cases as of Tuesday afternoon.
Other private groups have also taken initiative to make improvised protective equipment, including face masks and shields.
Suppliers of imported PPEs and medical supplies will only have to submit a copy of their license to operate and proof of application for product notification with the FDA to have their shipments cleared, the BOC said.
Importers of ventilators, respirators, and necessary accessories will only have to present a copy of their license to operate. Health products donated by certified agencies or third-party organizations “shall be automatically cleared” according to Customs.
Foreign donations of PPEs, respirators, and the needed accessories used to treat COVID-19 patients will not require FDA clearance, it added.
Under Section 4(O) of the Bayanihan law, the government is ordered to “liberalize the grant of incentives” in manufacturing equipment vital to COVID-19 treatment, provided that they are “exempt from import duties, taxes, and other fees.”/Stacy Ang