oxygen tanks

MANILA—The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Board of Investments (BOI) assured the general public that oxygen supply in the country is adequate despite growing demand among hospitals and COVID-19 patients.

“We have an ample supply of oxygen and we have more than twice buffer capacity in the event of a surge in critical COVID-19 cases that will require supply of medical oxygen,” Trade Secretary and BOI Chairman Ramon M. Lopez said.

The current oxygen consumption in the country is around 561,900 tanks or equivalent to 5,366 tons per month, according to initial data from the Department of Health (DOH). Based on DTI research, producers are currently operating at about 11,000 tons per month.  At the estimated consumption levels, the country would still have close to 6,000 tons per month buffer. That is based on operating capacity, and if the utilized capacity is added, the country still has around 9,000 tons per month buffer when basing it on the maximum production capacities.

The trade chief pointed to BOI data showing that there are three major producers of oxygen in the country and there is another producer with a smaller capacity, while there is a fifth facility that is yet to be operationalized. There are over 50 wholesalers and retailers of this locally produced oxygen.

“Currently, our producers maintain a range of four-14-day inventory levels during normal times, again, not counting the unused capacity,” Sec. Lopez said.

The Trade Secretary said DTI-BOI has recommended to the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on COVID-19 for a protocol to be designed for a fast ramp-up of oxygen supply to be triggered if there is a looming serious surge.

“Current oxygen manufacturers will need to operate at maximum capacity for medical oxygen while capacities for industrial oxygen, if and when necessary, may need to be shifted to the production of medical oxygen,” Sec. Lopez said.

DTI is also recommending for government to stock up on oxygen concentrators, that can augment the supply of medical oxygen for critical patients.

“Currently, there are no producers of oxygen concentrators in the country and we are sure that the Department of Science and Technology (DOST)’s scientist and engineer community can develop this equipment that can be commercially manufactured locally, similar to what was done on ventilators,” Sec. Lopez added.  “In the meantime, we encourage the strategic stockpiling of these critical equipment such as cylinders, tanks, and concentrators, so we have assured supply at any given point in time. We need to pass a law that will allow the government to stockpile and budget for this. Thus, we support the bill on Strategic Stockpiling filed by Philippine Red Cross (PRC) Chairman and Senator Richard J. Gordon,” the trade chief concluded. ♦

Date of Release: 12 May 2021