THE Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $125-million (P6 billion) loan to the Philippines for the procurement of medical equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE).

In a statement Wednesday, the bank said the loan will help the Department of Health (DoH) maintain a supply of such equipment and fund training programs for health workers.

“This project will help improve the preparedness and resilience of the country’s health systems at the national and local levels in handling current and future public health threats. It will also contribute to the Philippines’ efforts toward implementing universal health coverage,” ADB Vice-President Ahmed M. Saeed was quoted as saying.

The program that the loan will be supporting is known as the Health System Enhancement to Address and Limit (HEAL) COVID-19 Project.

HEAL will also help the government boost its capacity to testing, detect, and prevent threats to public health, according to Sakiko Tanak, a principal social sector specialist for Southeast Asia at the ADB.

The loan will fund the acquisition of electrocardiography machines and defibrillators for 17 major hospitals; ventilators for 17 DoH hospitals and 20 local government hospitals; computed tomography (CT) scan machines for 33 hospitals; test kits, chemicals, and reagents for at least 10 government molecular laboratories; and PPE for health workers and laboratory technicians.

“Health workers will also learn how to provide psycho-social support to patients and families, including pregnant women and other vulnerable groups affected by COVID-19,” it added.

In April the bank provided initial loans for the government’s COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) response worth $1.5 billion.

As of Aug. 5, the government has obtained $8.131 billion via loans, global bond issues and grants from external sources to fund its pandemic expenses. The ADB was the top source among multilateral partners, lending $2.6 billion so far.

The ADB’s lending program for the Philippines this year will be a record $4.2 billion. Next year, it aims to lend another $4.118 billion, including a standby loan of $1 billion for the Bataan-Cavite Bridge project.

The bank is the country’s second biggest source of official development assistance. — Beatrice M. Laforga