The Philippines signed Tuesday (April 28) a US$100-million loan agreement with the World Bank that aims to strengthen the country’s capacity to prevent, detect and respond to the threat posed by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and boost its national systems for public health preparedness.
This loan for the Philippines’ COVID-19 Emergency Response Project (ERP) was signed by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Mr. Achim Fock, the World Bank Acting Country Director for Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand.
The US$100-million accord follows an earlier agreement signed between Secretary Dominguez and Mr. Fock for the US$500-million Third Disaster Risk Management Development Policy Loan (DRM DPL3) that aims to augment the Philippine government’s urgent financing requirements in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The World Bank has again acted swiftly to help developing economies like the Philippines meet the ever-increasing demand for medical care and health facilities resulting from the coronavirus-induced global health crisis. We thank the World Bank once again for supporting our efforts to contain the spread of the virus and expand our capacity to prevent and prepare for emerging infectious diseases in the future,” Secretary Dominguez said.
In approving the COVID-19 ERP loan, Mr. Fock said “boosting the [Philippines’] capacity to respond to COVID-19 will save lives.”
“The government has taken quick and decisive action in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and the World Bank is proud to support its efforts. Right now, no other investment offers greater return,” Mr. Fock added.
The COVID-19 ERP consists of the following components: (1) strengthening the country’s emergency COVID-19 health care response efforts; (2) strengthening laboratory capacity at the national and sub-national levels to support the prevention of, preparedness against, and response to, emerging infectious diseases; (3) implementation management and monitoring and evaluation; and (4) contingent emergency response.
To be implemented by the Department of Health (DOH), the COVID-19 ERP will support the Philippine government’s efforts in the procurement of medical and laboratory equipment and reagents; medical supplies, including personal protective equipment (PPEs), medicines and ambulances; and isolation and quarantine facilities.
The World Bank may also provide proactive assistance in accessing existing supply chains through its Bank-Facilitated Procurement (BFP) to assist the DOH in implementing the project, “which will be beneficial considering the current disruptions in the usual supply chains for medical consumables and equipment for COVID-19 response,” the DOF said.
An earlier statement issued by the World Bank said the COVID-19 ERP loan also aims to expand the Philippines’ laboratory capacity by, among others, retrofitting the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) along with six sub-national and public health laboratories in Baguio, Cebu, Davao, Surigao City, and Manila; and finance the construction and expansion of laboratory capacity in priority regions that currently do not have these facilities.
This project loan will also support the efforts of the DOH in coming up with design standards for hospital isolation and treatment centers in managing patients with Severe Acute Respiratory Infections (SARI), which will be used in health facilities across the country to ensure the consistency of quality and standards in delivering COVID-19 healthcare services.
The loan carries a maturity period of 29 years, inclusive of a 10-and-a-half-year grace period.
It will be fully financed by the World Bank with no counterpart funding needed from the Philippine government.
The DOF said it expects the effectiveness of the ERP loan and the project implementation to commence in early May.
Last April 10, Secretary Dominguez and Mr. Fock signed the agreement for the US$500-million DRM DPL3, which aims to strengthen the Philippines’ capacity to prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural disasters, including health emergencies like the COVID-19 crisis.
According to the World Bank, the DRM DPL3 will support policy reforms undertaken by the Philippine government in disaster risk management, including the implementation of an emergency cash transfer program during times of crises.
The DRM DPL3 also aims to support the adoption and implementation of a unified disaster rehabilitation and recovery planning framework by the national government and local government units (LGUs); the development of multi-year investment plans for seismic risk reduction and retrofitting of important government buildings; and the promotion of integrated hazard and risk analysis in physical planning, and in support of policy development.