Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo Founder Joey Concepcion announces that the city of Makati led by Mayor Abigail Binay will pilot the Go Negosyo’s pooled PCR testing this month. ARK PCR Chief Private Implementor Cong. Janette Garin, Tessie Sy-Coson, Chairwoman of BDO Unibank, Philippine Children’s Medical Center’s Dr. Julius Lecciones, and Dr. Raymond Lo were also present during the virtual MOA signing.
“The private sector will fund a pooled PCR testing pilot for 16 cities and one municipality in NCR this month. That represents about P160,000 pooled PCR tests that will be done for this part of the research. This will be a game-changer for our country. It could speed up testing, increase the capacity, and make it cheaper. Testing will create greater visibility,” said Concepcion.
Concepcion also highlighted the significance of the partnership between the private sector and the local government units in winning the war against COVID-19 and thanked both BDO and Makati for their participation. “We are making the best out of this two-weeks. The challenge is how to co-exist with COVID-19. The objective is to save lives, jobs, and livelihoods. I’d like to thank Tessie for her untiring support. They have been supportive of every effort that is needed to help the health situation which is needed to help the economy. We cannot have a vibrant economy if we cannot control the health situation.”
“I’d like to thank PCE Go Negosyo, PSP, BDO Foundation, and PCMC. It is an honor that you chose Makati to do pooled testing. We are very honored to pilot pooled testing. Until we are able to get a vaccine, we will have to live with the virus,” Mayor Abby Binay said. “Pooled testing will be helpful not just to our constituents but also to our business community who are unable to afford the P3500 PCR test. Hopefully, this will encourage our companies to open up, our employees will be assured that they are not spreading the virus as well. Hopefully eto na po ang sagot na hinihintay nating lahat so we can all move forward, living with COVID.”
As the country’s business capital, Makati is one of the cities in NCR to pilot Go Negosyo’s pooled PCR testing for 10,000 individuals. The pilot will focus on public market vendors as well as tricycle, jeepney, and pedicab drivers, in addition to a community near Makati Coliseum. The city also pledges to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 through massive targeted testing. The data and results that will be gathered during the tests will then be used as a guide in policy-making, program formulation in line with the LGU’s COVID-19 response.
One of the staunch supporters of Go Negosyo programs and big brother BDO Foundation led by Tessie Sy-Coson expressed her belief in the pooled testing program, “We always believe in this pooled testing program which is initiated by Go Negosyo under Joey Concepcion and Cong. Janette Garin. As a matter of fact, Nestor and I have been talking about it. When we learn that Mayor Abby Binay is going to start this program, we were excited to involve BDO to work along in this worthy program and I’m happy to know that we will be working together.”
“It’s very difficult to be in a pandemic. But what inspires everybody, especially the health workers, is that when the private sector and government come together… Pooled testing does not only deal with a drastically reduced price, but it also deals with protecting our healthcare workers, hastening the turn around time and making our laboratories the windows that can open and guide us where these viruses are. Go Negosyo and the partnership with BDO has made possible for us the circle with the entry of the city of Makati,” said Garin.
She also added that the desire of the city of Makati, BDO Foundation and Go Negosyo is not only to make testing affordable, “Basically it boils down to how we can put back confidence in the workplaces. We look forward that the outcome of this pilot implementation of pooled testing will be the replica that will be cascaded to all other LGUs where government, private sector, and LGU will become enlightened in crushing COVID and allowing us to co-exist with it.”
Pooled PCR testing is expected to optimize the availability of test kits, reduce the workload of laboratory staff, eliminates large groups of negative cases, makes PCR testing more affordable and available, provides LGUs and businesses with a better and clearer direction, and restores confidence in returning to work while sustaining the gains of the initial lockdown.
Garin explained that a proposed costing mechanism has already been developed which will bring down the cost of testing to PHP450 per person in pools of 5s; PHP350 per person in pools of 10s, and PHP250 per person in pools of 20s, inclusive of PHP150 swabbing fee with VTM. If the study is approved by the Department of Health, pooled testing can be piloted in 21 implementation sites namely 11 Go Negosyo supported laboratories and 5 each from San Miguel Foundation and Ayala Foundation.
“I’m glad that we will be able to sign this MOA today. This will pave the way and accelerate all the things that we were talking about. The real challenge is how to put that into action. Today we will be doing that. Tomorrow and the next days to come, we commit to ourselves to show to everyone that this is the way to go. Our commitment and our dedication to this enterprise is something …. [that] you can be proud of,” Dr. Lecciones shared.
Dr. Lo, who is leading the PCMC COVID-19 Laboratory, also shared, “Our research is proceeding as we speak. Now, we’re beginning to test them with the pooling method. Initially, we will be testing them individually to establish a baseline and then we will do pooling so we can see… which pools of 5, 10, or 20 [is most effective]. That will be a function of the prevalence of the virus. We are going to be testing asymptomatic. We don’t expect that many [asymptomatics] in the community but we do hope to catch them before they can spread the virus.”
Lo added that the first phase of the research shows promise for pools of 5 and 10 and that the second phase is ongoing. The second phase will focus on cascading further protocols that other labs, especially those under the Go Negosyo mantle, can adapt.
ARK Project Lead Josephine Romero, Philippine Society of Pathologists, Inc. President Dr. Roberto Padua Jr., President, and CEO of BDO Unibank and trustee of BDO Foundation, Nestor V. Tan, BDO Foundation President Mario Deriquito were among the attendees.