By Chino Leyco
The World Bank has approved a fresh $100-million loan for the Philippine government’s coronavirus emergency response project that will help the nation’s urgent healthcare needs in the wake of the global pandemic.
In a statement, the Washingtonbased lender said that it approved the n loan to bolster the country’s public health preparedness amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis
According to the World Bank, the loan proceeds will be under the Department of Health (DOH) and should help strengthen its essential healthcare delivery system for critical medical services in the face of increased demand in the coming months.
Achim Fock, World Bank Philippine acting country director, said the government has taken “quick and decisive” action in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and they are “proud to support its efforts.”
“Boosting the country’s capacity to respond to COVID-19 will save lives,” Fock said. “Right now, no other investment offers greater return.”
The DOH’s emergency response project is focused on providing personal protective equipment (PPE) such as goggles, gloves, gowns, as well as drugs like antivirals, antibiotics and other essential medicines
It also focuses on medical supplies including intensive care unit equipment and devices such as mechanical ventilators, cardiac monitors, portable x-ray machines, laboratory equipment, and test kits.
In addition, the project will support the necessary logistics and supply chains to help ensure that the equipment will reach frontline health facilities without delays.
The project will also support the DOH in preparing guidance on standard design for hospital isolation and treatment centers to manage Severe Acute Respiratory Infections (SARI) patients, which will be used in health facilities across the country to ensure standards and quality of COVID-19 healthcare services.
This project will also fund the expansion of the country’s laboratory capacity at the national and sub-national levels for prevention of and preparedness against emerging infectious diseases.
It will support retrofitting of the national reference laboratory – the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) – as well as six sub-national and public health laboratories in the cities of Baguio, Cebu, Davao, and Manila, and finance the construction and expansion of laboratory capacity in priority regions that currently do not have these facilities.
The Philippines is one of the countries in the East Asia and the Pacific region hit hard by COVID-19.
The COVID-19 Emergency Response Project is part of the World Bank Group’s fast-track package to strengthen the COVID-19 response in developing countries and shorten the time to recovery.
Earlier this month, the World Bank also approved $500 million in financing to help strengthen the Philippine government’s capacity to address disaster risks, respond to and recover from natural disasters, as well as address urgent needs created by the health crisis.
High credit rating
As this developed, Tarlac 2nd District Rep. Victor Yap said the Philippine government’s efforts in achieving high credit ratings from debt watchers will pay off as it tries to reignite its economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yap said he anticipated that wealthier nations would become stingy in the months to come as they too try to get back on their feet after being floored by the new coronavirus.
“To tell you the truth, what I see is that all the rich nations will do everything for themselves, perhaps leaving little money on the table for poor and emerging markets to share from,” said Yap, chairman of the House Committee on Information and Communications Technology.
“Good thing is the Philippines being close to investment grade,” he said, referring to the country’s credit status, which at the moment is the highest in history.
The Philippines actually enjoys investment grade credit ratings from the Fitch Ratings, Moody’s Investors Service, and Standard and Poor (S&P) Global Ratings–the top credit rating firms in the world.
“We will get the needed liquidity or debt to support our economy,” Yap reckoned.
It was March 2013 when the Philippines, under the previous Aquino administration, gained its first ever investment grade debt rating of BBBfrom Fitch. This is a notch above the minimum investment grade of BBB
With President Duterte at the helm, the country received its highest rating ever of BBB+ in April 2019, this time from S&P. This boosted hopes for the government to achieve a coveted A rating, which is supposedly the target before Duterte steps down in 2022.
Essentially, high credit ratings are a vote of confidence for a given country that it can fulfill financial commitments, like loans. It also allows that country to demand lower rates when it borrows from lenders, among other perks. (With a report from Ellson Quismorio)