Ayala, private sector partners boost confirmatory testing capacity in the country
Fernando Zobel de Ayala, President and COO of Ayala Corporation, tours the new BSL-2 modular-type laboratory of Qualimed Sta. Rosa
The Ayala Group, led by Ayala Healthcare Holdings, Inc (AC Health), has partnered with the Aboitiz Foundation, ABS-CBN Corporation, Alfonso Yuchengco Foundation, Gokongwei Brothers Foundation, and Metrobank Foundation to build 4 Biosafety Level 2 modular laboratories in Qualimed hospitals across the country. This consortium was formed as part of the Ayala Group’s initiative to contribute an additional capacity of 5,500 confirmatory RT-PCR tests per day in support of the Department of Health’s and the Inter-agency Task Force’s Project T3 (Test, Trace, Treat). Project T3 aims to expand national testing capacity to 50,000 tests per day by end-June.
“Increasing the country’s confirmatory testing capacity is not easy. We are grateful to have been able to form a consortium of friends from the private sector who are just as committed to battling this pandemic. The challenges we are all facing highlights the importance of private sector working in collaboration with the government to ensure our country’s recovery,” said Fernando Zobel de Ayala, Chairman of the Board of AC Health.
The Memorandum of Agreement between the different companies was accomplished on June 16, 2020. The donations will go towards the construction of facilities and the purchase of equipment for the new laboratories to be built under the Qualimed Health Network, led by its President and CEO, Dr. Edwin Mercado.
The members of the consortium have addressed COVID-19 through various initiatives.
The Aboitiz Group has so far contributed over P1.85 billion to COVID-19 response initiatives including monetary and in-kind (e.g. PPEs, food, and support equipment) donations. With its nationwide presence, Aboitiz has also been proactively assisting communities in Visayas and Mindanao through its various business units operating in the area.
“The Aboitiz Foundation is looking forward to partnering with AC Health and other private sector partners for this initiative. Our country needs to ramp up its confirmatory testing capacity, especially for our vulnerable communities, and we will do all that we can to respond to that need,” Sabin M. Aboitiz, Aboitiz Group President and Chief Executive Officer said.
For its part, ABS-CBN launched the “Ligtas Pilipinas sa COVID-19” information campaign. The network and the ABS-CBN Foundation also launched “Pantawid ng Pag-ibig,” a fundraising campaign, which has provided food and basic necessities to over 750,000 families with the help of private companies and local government units.
“ABS-CBN will continue to serve the Filipino people and work with our partners to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Apart from our other initiatives, we hope this donation will reach critical areas that require much-needed access to confirmatory testing,” Carlo L. Katigbak, President and CEO of ABS-CBN Corporation added.
Meanwhile, the Alfonso Yuchengco Foundation (AYF) continues its financial and non-monetary aid for frontliners and vulnerable communities. This includes contributions to the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation to support Project Ugnayan and financial support to the Serosurveillance Campaign of the National Action Plan Against COVID-19.
“The AY Foundation is one with the government and the private sector in addressing the gaps in our country’s response to the pandemic. We are strong advocates of testing and hope that this initiative will strengthen the government’s efforts to control the spread of COVID-19,” said Mrs. Helen Y. Dee, AY Foundation Chairperson.
Similarly, the Gokongwei Brothers Foundation (GBF) created a P100 million COVID-19 relief fund dedicated to helping frontliners and government efforts to contain the virus. GBF has provided ventilators, COVID testing equipment, RT-PCR test kits, PPE sets, and food packs and vouchers to hospitals, LGUs, and other vulnerable sectors.
“We at the Gokongwei Brothers Foundation continue to mobilize efforts for COVID-19. From our frontliner relief efforts to our contributions to Project Ugnayan, we believe that this partnership is a great addition to the work we are doing. Through this, we aim to support the government's request to help expand testing capacity in the country. We definitely see this as a priority,” Lisa Y. Gokongwei-Cheng, General Manager of the Gokongwei Brothers Foundation emphasized.
As for the Metrobank Foundation, this partnership is part of the P200 million pledge by Metrobank and GT Capital Holdings Group through MBFI and GT Foundation, to fund and support efforts for COVID-19 such as the purchase of PPEs for frontliners, production of RT-PCR test kits, implementation of Rapid Testing in communities, distribution of meals, and construction and equipping of labs for testing.
“This health crisis necessitates a collective response. The Metrobank Foundation remains an ally of the government, private sector, and Filipino communities in the ongoing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope that this partnership will contribute to arresting the spread of the virus through increased testing capacity,” Aniceto M. Sobrepeña, President of Metrobank Foundation, Inc added.
The laboratories will be located in hospitals of the Qualimed Health Network in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, San Jose del Monte, Bulacan, Tanauan, Batangas, and Iloilo City, Iloilo. Each lab, equipped with 1 automated RNA extractor and 2 RT-PCR machines, will have the capacity to perform 1,000 RT-PCR tests/day. The innovative and efficient modular set-up, designed and built by Makati Development Corporation (MDC), will accelerate construction timelines for the laboratories. The laboratories are expected to be accredited and operational by July 2020.
Previously, AC Health announced its partnership with the Tropical Disease Foundation in Makati, the University of Cebu Hospital in Mandaue City, Cebu, and the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao to upgrade their laboratory facilities for COVID-19 testing.