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WB extends $100-M loan to PHL for coronavirus fight

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People struggle to maintain social distancing as they get on a bus in Quezon City, March 16. -- REUTERS

THE WORLD BANK Group (WB) is extending a $100-million loan to the Philippines to allow the Health department to buy test kits and protective equipment for health care workers, among others, as the country tries to contain the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, according to the Department of Finance (DoF).

In a statement on Wednesday, DoF said the funds will be sourced from the multilateral lender’s fast-track COVID-19 facility and is expected to made be available to the Department of Health (DoH) within weeks.

The funds can be used to pay for “personal protective equipment (PPE), testing materials and equipment, subnational lab equipment, isolation rooms, and quarantine areas,” according to Achim Fock, World Bank acting country director for Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand.

“[World Bank] would take every step to make procurement as fast as possible, fully appreciating that rapid response in health emergencies is key to limiting the spread of COVID-19 and providing care to those affected,” Mr. Fock said in a March 17 letter to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

He also said that World Bank office in Manila is ready to support the DoH in sourcing the needed medical goods and equipment as soon as possible.

A team led by Finance Undersecretary Mark Dennis Y. C. Joven met with World Bank’s Mr. Fock last week to discuss financing options that will help the country’s efforts to contain the outbreak.




Under the Washington-based lender’s COVID-19 facility, DoF said the country is eligible for a $100-million loan at “International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) regular terms, with a waiver of the first year of commitment fees.”

“As an IBRD member-country, the Philippines is also eligible to receive further financing assistance from the IBRD within its normal exposure limits,” it added.

IBRD is a member of the World Bank group that focuses on assisting middle-income and creditworthy countries.

DoH reported 202 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 17 deaths as of March 18.

Late Monday, the administration’s economic team has rolled out a P27.1-billion economic package to help affected sectors and to contain the spread of the COVID-19. Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III also said they are seeking a $1-billion loan to boost efforts against the coronavirus.

Michael L. Ricafort, chief economist at Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., said the P27.1-billion spending package, which translates to 0.15% of gross domestic product (GDP), is “decent enough as an initial stimulus measure.”

In an e-mail interview, Mr. Ricafort said the government may need “additional spending, stimulus measures and other interventions to counter the adverse effects of the coronavirus,” particularly during the enhanced community quarantine for Luzon.

“The expanded quarantine in Luzon may be necessary and prudent, as part of stringent measures in an effort to prevent the spread over the coronavirus in the country, considered a cost/sacrifice needed for the greater good, the benefits of which more than offset any potential harm/costs that is being prevented/controlled,” he added. — B.M.Laforga









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