MANILA, Philippines – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is eyeing to approve another $125-million (P6.3. billion) project that will strengthen the Philippines’ capacity to respond to the coronavirus crisis.
“We’re discussing with the Department of Health right now a $125-million project to scale up the health response against COVID,” ADB Country Representative Kelly Bird announced in a Department of Health (DOH) press briefing on Monday, May 11, adding the bank wanted the project approved by June.
The project, focused on scaling up the Philippines’ response to the coronavirus outbreak, will include setting up two new “state-of-the-art” testing laboratories following biosafety and biosecurity standards.
Bird added the proposed project will also train lab technicians to use equipment for processing tests and will scale up the supply of testing kits, equipment, and medical supply distributed to other frontline hospitals.
Aside from this, funds from the project will also be used to renovate and construct new isolation wards in hospitals treating coronavirus patients. No specific hospitals were cited as the project is still under discussion.
If approved, the project will be the latest form of assistance provided by ADB.
Prior to this, the ADB funded a sub-national reference laboratory at the Jose B Lingad Memorial Regional Hospital in San Fernando City, Pampanga. Testing in the lab began May 10 and is expected to increase the country’s daily testing capacity from 7,000 to 10,000 tests with 3,000 tests processed in the laboratory.
Bird said beyond the coronavirus pandemic, the laboratory in the Jose B Lingad hospital will also be used as a research lab on other viruses and cancer. It was chosen since it's a teaching hospital and considered a high-quality public hospital that has the capacity to quickly scale up testing, he added.
Aside from this, ADB also provided a $200 million (P10 billion) loan to support the Philippine government's efforts to provide cash subsidies to the poor affected by the coronavirus pandemic.