Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III, together with Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles and other officials of the Department of Health (DOH), inaugurated the state-of-the-art Asian Development Bank (ADB)-funded Molecular and Diagnostic Pathology Laboratory of the Jose B. Lingad Memorial General Hospital (JBLMGH) in San Fernando, Pampanga yesterday, May 9, 2020.
JBLMGH was the recipient of the US2.5 million dollar-grant from the ADB to set up a Pandemic Sub national Reference Laboratory which will ramp up the country’s testing capacity by an additional 3,000 tests daily.
According to Ahmed M. Saeed, Vice President for East Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific of the ADB, one thing is certain in our fight against COVID-19, “we will find a new normal and we need to find it before the vaccine is available and widely disseminated.”
He emphasized that we could only do this by considering the actionable insights taken from the data and information collected through testing. “That’s why this center is so important, because this is the center that will help the country create a new normal,” Saeed emphasized.
“We hope to continue to strengthen these [partnerships] mechanisms to provide the needs of our countrymen,” Secretary Duque said after thanking the ADB and acknowledging the Unilab Foundation and the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) for their help and support. The Unilab foundation assisted in retrofitting the hospital to meet biosafety standards while the BGI, one of the world’s largest genomics companies serving more than 66 countries, provided technical support in setting up the laboratory and training of hospital staff.
The Health Chief also underscored that “there is still much to do to ensure that our health system is fully equipped to handle both the detection and treatment of COVID-19, as well as other emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases with pandemic potential” in the country. The laboratory is expected to support research on other pathogens, genetic diseases, and cancer after the pandemic.
Other than Mr. Tan Qingsheng, the Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, Cabinet Secretary Nograles expressed his congratulations and thanks to the DOH and to Secretary Duque for the establishment of the new laboratory.
“Kung wala po siya [Secretary Duque], wala po tayo dito because it was Secretary Duque who actually requested that this grant be given to the Republic of the Philippines for us to establish this very, very important PCR laboratory we are launching today,” Secretary Nograles shared.
“As President Duterte always said to Secretary Duque, today and until the end of his administration, Secretary Duque can stand proud with all that he has accomplished together with the official family of the Department of Health,” he added.
The US2.5 million dollar-grant from ADB covers the construction of the new laboratory building, as well as the procurement of testing machines, personal protective equipment and other medical supplies needed in the operation of the laboratory. It is expected to start its operations today.
Pampanga Governor Dennis Pineda, ADB Country Director Kelly Bird, ADB Human and Social Development Division- Senior Health Specialist Gerard Servais, and WHO Acting Representative Dr. Tauhid Islam also graced the event.