THE government on Friday said it will set up a coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) hospital in New Clark City (NCC) and will continue to convert more facilities in Metro Manila to accommodate COVID-19 patients in partnership with the private sector.

In a briefing on Friday, Bases and Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) President and CEO Vivencio “Vince” B. Dizon said, “Magatatayo po tayo ng COVID hospital, gagamitin natin ang iba’t ibang buildings sa New Clark City. Di kumulang ng isang libo na pasyente na pwede ilagay dun (We will set up a COVID hospital and we will use the different buildings in New Clark City).”

The BCDA official also said that other large areas will be turned into quarantine and health facilities for persons under investigation (PUIs) and persons under monitoring (PUMs), and for patients who have mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19.

Earlier this week it was announced that, with the help of the private sector, the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) and the World Trade Center (WTC) in Pasay City, and the Ninoy Aquino Stadium (NAS) at the Rizal Memorial Complex in Manila are currently being made ready for use for quarantine purposes. Target completion of these venues are within the next 10 days, with the Rizal Memorial Complex ready by this Sunday.

Also planned to be turned into quarantine and treatment centers are the Amoranto Sports Complex, Quezon Institute, Veterans Memorial Center, and Quezon City Circle, all in Quezon City; the Philippine Sports Complex (formerly Ultra) in Pasig City; the Filinvest Tent in Muntinlupa; and the Food Terminal Incorporated (FTI) in Taguig.

Other large scale venues to be converted as quarantine facilities are the ASEAN convention center and Athletes Village in NCC. The latter is currently being disinfected after it was used to house repatriated OFWs from the COVID-19 plagued cruise ship MV Diamond Princess last month so it can be used to quarantine PUIs and PUMs in the region.

Mr. Dizon also said that officials from Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) have also allowed them to convert the gigantic Philippine Area in Bulacan — said to be the largest indoor arena in the world — for quarantine purposes. According to Mr. Dizon, “(The) Philippine Arena, ito po ay magiging mega-quarantine facility diyan sa Central Luzon (this will be a mega-quarantine facility there in Central Luzon).”

Over 100 evacuation centers in the rest of the country are being turned into quarantine and health facilities, with 29 already in operation.

Meralco powers temporary COVID-19 treatment centers in Metro Manila

Meanwhile, Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) has announced that it will be providing power to the government’s temporary COVID-19 treatment centers in Metro Manila.

In a press statement released on Friday, the private distribution utility said it has worked with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to install an enhanced electrical system at the COVID-19 treatment centers at the PICC, the WTC, and the NAS at the Rizal Memorial Complex.

“The immediate conversion of the three facilities into health centers is crucial, and we will do our part by ensuring fast, adequate and safe energization. Reliable power is critical too, and Meralco commits uninterrupted flow of electricity to the temporary structures,” Meralco President and Chief Executive Officer Ray C. Espinosa said in a statement.

Besides working round the clock to ensure that the three sites have steady power, Meralco also vowed to relieve “these establishments of any additional costs resulting from the government’s mission of accommodating the growing number of COVID-19 patients.”

Meralco partnered with three of the biggest business groups in the country to subsidize the electricity consumption expenses incurred by the three converted facilities.

The Ayala Group will help cover the electricity cost for the WTC health facility, the Razon Group will chip in to shoulder the cost of NAS, while San Miguel Corp. will pay the power bill of the PICC health site.

Earlier, Meralco assured its customers of an uninterrupted supply of electricity while Luzon is under enhanced community quarantine.

“We will continue working hard to give medical workers and frontliners the reliable service they need now more than ever. All hands are on deck to ensure these new health facilities are constructed according to the planned timelines, and run like clockwork once they begin operations,” Mr. Espinosa said.

On Friday, shares in Meralco rose by 3.45% to close at P240 each.

TESDA to manufacture face masks, PPEs

Meanwhile, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) has been manufacturing face masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) needed for healthcare workers and others on the frontline of the pandemic.

In a briefing on Friday, Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) Spokesperson Karlo Alexei B. Nograles said “TESDA regional and provincial training centers and other training institutions around the country are continuously producing washable face masks. As of March 28, 57,000 face masks have been produced and donated to front liners such as health workers in the hospitals, barangay health centers, PNP/AFP checkpoints, LGUs, employees of government, members of the media and barangay tanods.” — Gillian M. Cortez and Adam J. Ang