By Genalyn Kabiling
Any Filipino who can design and develop a durable respirator to help coronavirus patients will receive a P20 million incentive from President Duterte, Malacañang announced Tuesday.
According to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, the President pushed for the local research and development of the life-saving machine amid the shortage of respirators in the market.
“Nagbigay ng pabuya ang Presidente ng P20 million para sa sinumang Pilipino na makakabuo ng local respirator na sabi niya ay would outlast the life of the patient. Ito po ay may kakulangan talaga sa respirators (The President has put up a P20 million reward to any Filipino who can create a local respirator that would outlast the life of the patient. This is a result of the shortage of respirators),” Roque said in a virtual press briefing Tuesday.
The President has recently poured funds into the country’s research and development to promote public health in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
Duterte recently offered P50 million to any Filipino who can discover a vaccine for the illness that has infected more than 7,000 people in the country. He intends to give another P50 million if he becomes “happy” with the vaccine discovery.
A substantial grant has also been promised by the President to the University of the Philippines and Philippine General Hospital for vaccine research and development.
Last Monday, the President met with Cabinet members, who also serve as members of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), to discuss the government’s coronavirus response including quarantine guidelines in certain areas.
In the meeting, Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato dela Peña announced the ongoing development of locally designed ventilators as affordable yet quality alternatives to imported products to help patients infected with COVID-19.
Mass production of the “Ginhawa” ventilators will commence once these products pass human trials, the DOST chief said.
He also said they hope the locally made ventilators will help meet the demand for such biomedical devices especially in the country’s small hospitals.
“Pagka dumami ang napunta sa ICU (intensive care unit), dadami ang demand for ventilators ano (If there will be many patients confined at the ICU, there will be a huge demand for ventilators).
“And at present, number one, the average number of ventilators in small hospitals is really a very, very small fraction of what is really needed. And secondly, bigla pong humirap mag-import ng ventilator kasi nag-aagawan sa supply ng ventilator (Secondly, it is hard to import ventilators because of the competition for ventilator supply),” he said in the meeting aired on state television Monday night.
“So we have this project called Ginhawa, and actually we are already undergoing the final production of the three prototypes, and hopefully if the prototypes will work on our test patients at the ICU, we can continue with the mass production,” he added.
He told the President that DOST has already identified electronic companies capable of producing the portable ventilators. He added that the University of the Philippines-Manila and eight other groups are interested in conducting further ventilator research and development.
Ventilators have become a vital machine in the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Hospitals use the machine to assist coronavirus patients suffering respiratory symptoms to survive the illness.
Rapid test kits
The President has ordered anew the use of rapid test kits in the country even they have “no validation” yet, according to Roque.
“Sabi ng Presidente na importante ang testing dahil hindi pa sapat ang ating PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing, sagot na muna niya ang paggamit ng rapid test kits na gagamitin naman in conjunction with PCRs (The President said testing is important. Because we don’t have enough PCR testing, he will take responsibility for the use of rapid test kits that will be used in conjucntion with PCRs),” Roque said.
Early this month, the President authorized the purchase of rapid test kits to boost the government’s efforts to detect, isolate, and treat coronavirus patients. Duterte said he was willing to take the risk and clear the way for the purchase of the rapid test kits.
In his weekly report to Congress, Duterte said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved
153 applications for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) (74) and rapid test kits (79) out of the 520 applications as of April 22.