THE private sector continues to extend help to communities and frontliners fighting the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The Villar Group is working with EEI Corp. and the Department of Public Works and Highways, headed by Secretary Mark A. Villar, in transforming Forum Halls 1 to 3 of the Philippine International Convention Center into a temporary healthcare facility.

The 4,000 square meter space will be converted into a health center for persons under investigation and monitoring. Once completed, this facility will accommodate about 630 COVID-19 patients.

“In these challenging times, I would like to give you the firm assurance of our companies’ commitment to extend help in whichever way we can and converting PICC to a health facility in the fastest time we can is just one of them,” Manuel B. Villar, chairman of the Villar Group of Companies, said in a statement.

The Gokongwei Brothers Foundation (GBF) said Friday it has started mobilizing its P100-million COVID-19 fund, starting with the distribution of financial assistance and in-kind donations to three hospitals: Philippine General Hospital (PGH), Lung Center of the Philippines and Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital and Sanitarium.

It has also given cash donations to the UP Medical Foundation, which will be used to buy personal protective equipment for its network of 300 hospitals.

SM Foundation also on Friday said it has donated N95 masks, alcohol, goggles, medical gloves, personal protective equipment (PPEs), raincoats and hygiene kits help to the Cebu-based Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center.

Seaoil Philippines, Inc. is giving e-vouchers to more than 20 hospitals to provide free fuel for ambulances and health workers, redeemable in all Seaoil stations nationwide.

Among the beneficiary hospitals are PGH, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, San Lazaro Hospital, East Avenue Medical Center, Philippine Children’s Medical Center and the Philippine Heart Center.

PLDT, Inc. is providing tools to help improve connectivity among frontliners during quarantine, through the distribution of free push-to-talk smartphones in COVID-19 referral hospitals, free Smart Bro Pocket WiFi units in government-supplied buses in Metro Manila, and free accounts on its messaging platform Smart Messaging Suite for healthcare facilities. It is also working with the inter-agency task force for a “Rapidpass QR Project” which will allow QR scanning at designated checkpoints in Luzon.

The new initiatives of PLDT are on top of the free speed boost that PLDT Home rolled out earlier in highly affected areas throughout Luzon.

Republic Cement of the Aboitiz Group said it has given 200 50-kilogram sacks of rice to the local government of Norzagaray, Bulacan for distribution to residents. This is aside from the daily food packs, N95 masks, vitamins and medicine, disinfectant products and nebulizers that the company has given to its other host communities.

LBC Express Holdings, Inc. is allocating P50 million to buy two-ply washable face masks, which it will distribute to communities in at-risk areas.

The Department of Health reported 3,018 cases of COVID-19 infection in the Philippines as of Friday afternoon. Of this, 136 have died while 52 have recovered.

Around the world, COVID-19 has sickened more than 1 million patients and has killed more than 53,100 individuals.

Luzon is under enhanced community quarantine until April 12 to contain the spread of the virus. — Denise A. Valdez