Let’s get in touch.
We’d love to hear from you.
Many people ask me why I am so passionate about helping our MSMEs and kababayans, and why I am pushing for selective quarantines on the barangay level, even if it may mean extended lockdowns for certain communities.
My answer is simple. When it comes down to choosing between life and livelihood, we must value life above all. This crisis has undoubtedly affected our country’s economy, what with the almost six-week lockdown that was declared over Luzon. This forced businesses and establishments to close operations, leaving many workers displaced and heavily affecting their income. From the largest global corporations down to the medium, small, and micro-enterprises, each has been hit with a financial blow.
I am very serious with my duty and responsibilities as presidential adviser for entrepreneurship, to do what I can to protect their livelihoods and influence national policy for the betterment of all Filipinos.
After consulting the business sector and receiving their all-out support, I initiated Project ARK (Antibody Rapid test Kits) last April 16, the Project ARK is a private sector-led initiative that aims to complement the efforts of the government by making massive testing accessible at the community level.
The name of the initiative was inspired by the concept of the ark, which in the Holy Bible has always served as a symbol of security and protection in difficult times. With this, I hope that our leaders will unite and offer the same sense of security to our people. This, as we combat the spread of the disease, save lives, and steer the country through a tumultuous economic recession. And yes, we are headed towards that, but we must not despair. Because if we take the urgent steps to protect the health of the people, and lay down the best plans to navigate this crisis as a nation, we can come out of this still strong.
I am glad that this program is supported by different conglomerates and major business organizations across the country. Because they are crucial in ensuring that this is successful.
To help out in the execution of Project ARK, we have put together a team of medical experts, specialists, and business advisers to develop a test protocol. The testing will help determine who has the infection and who doesn’t. The data collected will be critical in deciding how we proceed in treating the infected, ensuring the safety of communities, and developing more effective mitigation plans. In addition, mass testing aims to identify those who have crucial antibodies after recovering from the disease.
Project ARK will utilize the antibody rapid test kit as an added screening tool to the Department of Health’s gold standard, the PCR testing. These tests can detect the presence of IgG and IgM antibodies. When implemented at the community level, these tests and the data generated by them can help business leaders develop effective internal strategies, and identify those who are fit to return to work.
Our group of medical experts is carefully validating the test kits before recommending their use. All test kits that are in the process of validation were included in the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) list of approved COVID-19 test kits.
I would like to thank our team, especially our resident doctors, led by Dra. Minguita Padilla. Again, we are not simply relying on FDA approval. We are validating the kits in various hospitals in Metro Manila and even Batangas, using actual COVID-19 patients, patients who have recovered, and known negatives.
To date, more than 500,000 antibody rapid test kits have been pledged by over 70 companies. The companies are also opting to screen (on a purely voluntary basis) the residents of nearby barangays wherein they operate. With massive rapid testing, public confidence can be reestablished.
I hope that we may adopt some of the best practices and learn from one of the hardest-hit countries globally, South Korea. They haven’t required businesses to close, because they had launched a massive testing and contact-tracing campaign that significantly curbed the outbreak. Even our model studies here in our country show that more testing is needed to allow us to open the economy at the soonest possible time.
To operate in a war-like environment, we must be firm, strategic, and create that structure of defense which can be done with a selective quarantine on the barangay level. However, this plan will be useless if we don’t make our decisions based on science, accurate data, and the advice of our experts. We need to gain a clear and accurate view of the situation. This is why I insist that we pursue aggressive PCR testing and massive screening using rapid test kits. With this, we can achieve greater visibility of the enemy, and develop more effective strategies to combat – and eventually stop – the spread of COVID-19.