THE Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) 7, Department of Health (DOH) 7 and the Food and Drug Administration have assured the public of adequate oxygen supply in Central Visayas.

The government agencies issued a joint statement on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021, after noticing a surge in demand for medical grade oxygen tanks amid the rising Covid-19 cases in Cebu.

In a joint statement, DTI 7 Director Maria Elena C. Arbon, DOH 7 Director Dr. Jaime Bernadas and FDA Regional Field Supervisor Rica Reina Aumentado dispelled doubts about the sufficiency and availability of medical grade oxygen in Cebu.

Three Cebu-based manufacturers of medical grade oxygen (MGO) —Linde Philippines (South) Inc., Mepz Mixed Gases Corp. and Sugeco Cebu—that on the average, they can produce between 600 to 800 cylinders a day based on current cylinder holdings and labor force.

The companies can increase their production capacity to 200 percent in the event of a surge in critical Covid-19 cases that will require supply of medical oxygen.

In an earlier coordination meeting, Aumentado had disclosed that eight companies in Central Visayas are registered with the FDA as manufacturers of medical grade oxygen.

It coincides with the data of DTI-7 that there are eight product standards license holders—seven in Cebu and one in Bohol—that are into MGO production, including Linde Philippines Inc., Mepz Mixed Gases Corp. and Sugeco Cebu.

Arbon said there is no need to panic, which could lead to panic buying and create artificial shortage and hoarding.

Hoarding, under Republic Act (RA) 7581 (Price Act) as amended by RA 10623, is punishable with a penalty of imprisonment for a period of not less than five years but not more than 15 years. It carries a fine of not less than P5,000, but not more than P2 million.

Bernadas warned the public of the “danger of home use of medical oxygen without supervision of doctors and the storage hazards.”

In addition, the above government agencies commit to monitor the movement of price and supply of medical grade oxygen and go after those who take advantage of the pandemic.

PNP action

Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Guillermo Eleazar has ordered police units in Cebu City to look into reports on hoarding of oxygen tanks and medical supplies.

Eleazar said Cebu City Acting Mayor Michael Rama called his attention.

“I have directed the Cebu City Police and the Regional Criminal Investigation and Detection Group to closely coordinate with the DTI office in the area and look into this report of hoarding,” he said.

Eleazar said he will also ask police units in Metro Manila to monitor similar developments.

The police official said the hospitals need a sufficient supply of oxygen because of the increasing Covid-19 cases.

Residents of Cebu City and Cebu Province flocked to a pharmacy in Cebu City to purchase oxygen supplies or refill their tanks on Monday, Aug. 2, a day after photos of a long queue of patients outside a tertiary hospital.

The incident prompted Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia to issue an executive order regulating the sale of medical oxygen. (JOB, TPM / SunStar Philippines)