By CNN Philippines Staff, March 18, 2020; CNN Philippines
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 18) — The World Bank has provided the country a loan of $100 million to help fight the coronavirus disease pandemic, the Department of Finance said Wednesday.
The DOF said the amount is a “fast-track loan” which the country can receive in “a matter of weeks.” The loan will enable the Department of Health to procure more personal protective equipment for health workers and testing materials, it added. The country is also eligible for a waiver for the first year of commitment fees.
On March 3, the World Bank said it prepared a $12 billion financial package called the “COVID-19 Fast Track Facility” to assist countries in their fight against the disease officially known as COVID-19.
The Asian Development Bank also gave a $3-million grant to the Philippine government on March 13 for the purchase of medical supplies and delivery of health care services, among other needs.
President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly assured the public in his earlier speeches that the government has enough money to contain the spread of COVID-19 which to date has infected at least 193 people in the Philippines, including a DOH director, and killed 14 others. Duterte declared a nationwide state of calamity on Tuesday, allowing the national and local government units to access their quick response funds.
The president has also placed Luzon under an “enhanced community quarantine” which laid down strict controls on the movement of people outside their homes.
The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation also said it will release ₱30 billion to accredited hospitals. The amount is three-month’s worth of claims and will be charged to future claims.
Big business companies such as SM Group have also stepped up in assisting the public by donating supplies. San Miguel Corporation announced that it is producing ethyl alcohol in its liquor plant which it will distribute for free to hospitals and LGUs.
As for testing, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said the public will not have to pay to get tested but currently, the available kits remain limited.
The country has since been receiving donations of thousands of testing kits from China and South Korea. Chinese billionaire Jack Ma also contributed 50,000 test kits through Senator Manny Pacquiao’s foundation. The University of the Philippines also developed its own kits which the DOH is still validating.
The DOF said ₱3.1 billion has been set aside to purchase more COVID-19 test kits. There is also a need for more facilities to conduct the tests. For now, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa City is the only facility in the country equipped to execute clinical tests for COVID-19, which caused delays in the release of results. However, DOH said soon four more hospitals – one in Davao, Cebu, Benguet and Manila – will start testing as well.
Amid calls for mass testing, the DOH maintains thousands have already been tested for the disease, but adds that with the limited supplies and facilities currently available, priority must be given to the elderly, those with pre-existing medical conditions and those showing severe symptoms.