Lopez-led renewable energy company Energy Development Corporation (EDC) is taking a huge step to help Negros Oriental put up its own COVID-19 testing facility by donating around P8.5 million worth of equipment, including two state-of-the-art Real-Time Reverse Transcriptase-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT–PCR) machines.
This initiative was made official on Tuesday, September 8, through a virtual ceremonial signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) and Deed of Donation led by Deputy Chief Implementer of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF–EID) against COVID-19, Secretary Vivencio “Vince” B. Dizon; Negros Oriental Governor Roel Ragay Degamo, Vice Governor Edward Mark Macias, and Provincial Board Member Jack Raymond; Municipality of Valencia Mayor Edgar Teves; EDC President and Chief Operating Officer Richard B. Tantoco, Vice President and Chief Finance Officer Erwin O. Avante, Vice President and Head of EDC’s Facility Operations Engr. Emeterio Busmeon, Asst. Vice President and Corporate Support Functions Head Regina Victoria J. Pascual, Corporate Social Responsibility and Public Relations Head Atty. Allan V. Barcena, and Negros CSR Head Norreen G. Bautista.
The event was also joined by Hospital Incident Command System Commander and Chair of IATF–EID Committee on Health Dr. Liland Estacion, Negros Oriental Provincial Hospital (NOPH) Head Dr. Mark Angelo Llosa, and NOPH Molecular Laboratory Head Dr. Nikko Paolo Cablao whose respective organizations have partnered to establish the province’s first Negros Oriental Molecular Diagnostic Center.
The facility aims to implement mass testing for COVID-19 and gather all the necessary scientific information in order to help flatten the curve of the disease and manage the pandemic in the area.
“Today marks another milestone as we hold our ceremonial MOA signing via Zoom for the first time with our Negros stakeholders,” said Atty. Barcena, whose CSR–PR team spearheads the fulfillment of EDC’s commitment to this project. “Our almost 40-year partnership with Negros Oriental proves that this initiative is part of our commitment to work together even if we are apart to help the province thrive and not just survive this COVID-19 pandemic.”
Valencia, Negros Oriental has been home to EDC’s 222.5-megawatt (MW) geothermal facility, the company’s second-biggest facility and a model for compact development and greening, for almost 40 years. The facility has been supplying clean, renewable and uninterrupted geothermal energy to Negros Island and the rest of the Visayas region amid the pandemic.
EDC’s donation is a critical component of the project considering that RT–PCR is the gold standard in testing used to detect SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19.
“We knew that all our efforts will be futile if the province won’t be able to manage the transmission of COVID-19. Negros Oriental had to have its testing facility and the sooner it happens, the sooner the provincial government can do it,” Tantoco said in his speech.
The equipment will significantly improve the process of mass testing in the province. Previously, swab tests were delivered to the Vicente Memorial Medical Center in Cebu or Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Manila, with results taking from three to seven days to be released. With the two RT–PCR machines that EDC has donated, NOPH will be able to process up to 500 swab tests in one day and release the results in one to two days.
“This is just the first of many steps that we are willing to undertake for the province and for the municipality of Valencia,” Tantoco added.
Recalling his experience in Ormoc City where EDC previously donated similar equipment, Sec. Dizon expressed his deep appreciation for the generosity of the EDC. “We will be visiting Negros Oriental to make sure that the National Government will provide all the necessities,” he said.
The provincial government of Negros Oriental shall provide the necessary supervision, technical support, as well as fixtures, furniture and facilities for the Molecular Testing Laboratory. Meanwhile, NOPH shall operate and manage the facility, and provide the appropriate staff who are proficient in Molecular Diagnostic Techniques, as provided by the guidelines issued by the Department of Health. It will ensure that the laboratory shall only use Food and Drug Authority (FDA) registered testing kits, reagents and devices, and that RT-PCR machine and all other equipment in the Molecular Testing Laboratory are properly maintained.
“From the bottom of my heart, and I am speaking on behalf of the people of Negros Oriental, thank you so much EDC,” Gov. Degamo said.