By Denise A. Valdez, Reporter

THE Philippines’ top companies are accepting the challenge of President Rodrigo R. Duterte to support the country in efforts to contain the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

In his speech Monday night, Mr. Duterte called on the private sector, specifically “industry players, business leaders, foundations and the like” to “combine our efforts in fighting COVID-19 as one nation.”

He also mentioned that San Miguel Corp. had committed to provide food to public hospitals and select government centers and donate sanitizing supplies to local governments.

After his speech, the SM Group, Ayala Corp. (AC) and Dennis A. Uy’s Udenna Corp. announced they were also giving assistance to the health sector to help in fighting the spread of the virus.

The SM Group of the Sy family said Monday night it was allocating P100 million for its support program, which will be used by the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), the Research Institute for Tropical Management (RITM) and other hospitals in procuring urgent needs such as alcohol and medical supplies.

It is also talking to the Manila Healthtek, Inc. to buy and distribute for free 20,000 test kits that were locally developed by scientists from the University of the Philippines. Once approved, these will be given to local government hospitals for use.

Last week, the PGH and the University of the Philippines College of Medicine called for masks and alcohol donations to support hospital staff fighting the COVID-19.

“To ensure the safety of medical frontliners, SM is bringing in personal protective equipment (PPE) — face masks, gowns, visors, hoods, gloves, and shoe covers, as well as urgent medical supplies to help government hospitals who badly need them,” SM Prime Holdings, Inc. Executive Committee Chairman Hans T. Sy said in a statement.

SM is also coordinating with the UP Medical Foundation, Inc. to provide PPEs and medical supplies to its network of hospitals

Similarly, AC’s Ayala Healthcare Holdings, Inc. (AC Health), through the Ayala Foundation, started distributing more than 10,000 pieces of N95 masks to health institutions and various channels of the Department of Health (DoH) on Monday.

Among the hospitals that received the masks are PGH and RITM, along with San Lazaro Hospital, East Avenue Medical Center, Lung Center of the Philippines, Philippine Heart Center, National Kidney and Transplant Institute.

“Amidst the challenges of this COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important for us to support our medical professionals and frontliners,” AC Health President and Chief Executive Officer Paolo Maximo F. Borromeo said in a statement.

Udenna Corp.’s social responsibility arm Udenna Foundation also said it was working with South Korea’s MyongJi Hospital to deliver 1,000 COVID-19 diagnostic kits to the DoH last week. The company noted MyongJi is one of the first hospitals in South Korea that were able to treat confirmed cases of COVID-19.

“These are very somber times… We all have a role, and this is our small share to help,” Mr. Uy was quoted in a statement as saying. “Increasing testing capacity, training health workers, and urging people to be smart and informed can reverse the trajectory of this epidemic,” MyongJi Hospital Chairman Wang Jun Lee added.

Aside from companies, government-owned and -controlled Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) also donated P2.5 billion to the national government for the COVID-19 containment efforts. It said the money will be used to procure PPEs for frontliners, finance additional operating expenses at the DoH’s Bureau of Quarantine and support tests conducted by the RITM.

“Containing the spread of the virus at the community level is very important as this will further curb spread of the disease. But many of our public hospitals and healthcare facilities are not fully equipped to handle a pandemic of this magnitude. Hence, the need for all of us to work together,” Pagcor Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Andrea D. Domingo said in a statement.

The latest tally of the DoH as of Monday was 148 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines. The death toll reached 12 while one Filipino has recovered.