As the novel coronavirus continues to affect Filipinos all over the country, BDO Foundation is taking steps to expand the coverage of its mass testing initiative to cover as many people as possible. The corporate social responsibility arm of BDO Unibank is partnering with Go Negosyo, University of Cebu Medical Center (UCMed), Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) and the local government of Cebu City to sponsor pooled testing in the city.
Backed by the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas, the pooled testing program was unveiled only weeks after the pilot implementation of the initiative in Makati City, an undertaking also supported by BDO Foundation. The virtual launch and signing of the memorandum of agreement was witnessed by BDO Unibank and BDO Foundation chairperson Teresita Sy-Coson as well as BDO Unibank president and CEO and BDO Foundation trustee Nestor V. Tan.
According to Tan, “The fight to contain COVID-19 is a joint initiative of the private sector and public sector working in the same direction. It’s not about the trade-off between life and livelihood. We have to address both. One cannot exist without the other.”
“We are encouraged by the technology of pooled testing as it addresses three key areas: cost, accessibility and timeliness. We hope that BDO Foundation and the BDO group can contribute to this initiative in our own small way through this donation,” he added.
Also present at the online event were BDO Foundation president Mario Deriquito and BDO Foundation trustees Lazaro Jerome Guevarra, Ma. Corazon Mallillin and Ismael Estela Jr. The partners were represented by Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion, UCMed president Candice Gotianuy, VSMMC medical chief Dr. Gerardo Aquino Jr., Cebu City mayor Edgardo Labella and Iloilo 1st district representative Dr. Janette Garin, who serves as a consultant to the program.
The implementation of pooled testing in Cebu City–the first outside the National Capital Region–targets 4,000 market vendors and public utility vehicle drivers.
Pooled testing combines swab samples from groups of five, 10 or 20 individuals and examines them together using a single reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test kit. The method is highly touted by the medical community as a very effective and aggressive approach, a game changer in efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The testing strategy is expected to boost capacities, expedite procedures and significantly reduce the cost of mass testing.