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War chest

A report by Washington-based multilateral lender World Bank said the Philippines has satisfactorily implemented the disbursement of 36 percent so far of a total $600 million in loans aimed at preventing, detecting and responding to the Covid-19 threat.

The WB report said $218.54 million has been spent of the two loans during the period December 2020 to June 2021. The loans are the $100 million Covid-19 emergency response project financing World Bank green-lit last year and the $500 million additional financing approved in March this year. Both loans must be spent before the closing date in December 2023.

As of March this year, 74 percent of 70 public hospitals nationwide had been equipped with personal protective equipment as well as infection control products and supplies adhering to Department of Health requirements. This level was higher than 55 percent in March last year.

However, WB noted only 14 percent of the seven testing laboratories in the country had Covid-19 diagnostic equipment, test kits, and reagents, as of March. This level is below the 20 percent baseline in the same period last year. It nevertheless noted that the national laboratory Research Institute for Tropical Medicine could now test 1,010 people daily, or more than triple the 300 last year. The subnational laboratories in Cebu and Davao also hiked their daily testing capacities to 660 and 533, respectively, from only 20 each at the onset of the pandemic.

Also as of March, public hospitals were provided 190 ventilators compared to none a year ago. The target to train 15,000 health care workers in infection prevention and control by 2023 was nearly achieved in March with 14,757 trained.

Considering the number of loans incurred by our government because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the country should be doing better. We started woefully unprepared but the infusion of funds through the loans, if spent properly, should’ve improved our situation immensely. However, as the WB report indicates, we need to be more aggressive in spending the funds from our Covid-19 response war chest in order to get the results the Filipino people have been expecting from our government that we have been counting on to help us through this pandemic.*

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