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For my birthday, a couple of days ago, my wife and kids surprised me with a video of them singing their hearts out. It was made more special as my other friends participated in the video through Zoom. The video captured the precious growing up years of my children, from the day of their births to the lives they lead now, nurtured by our love for them.
This special gift reminded me how time is, indeed, going by so fast. Through the video, I, too, remember how I was showered with the same love from my parents. With some of my kids now with families of their own, the cycle just continues. This is one of God’s greatest blessings to all families.
That same day, my Viber crashed from so many greetings from family, friends, partners, colleagues, and supporters of Go Negosyo. I was surprised when my media team said I had more than 2,000 birthday greetings on Facebook. I started to read some of them and realized that 15 years of helping micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) has made an impact on the lives of many, and our work has, indeed, given them hope.
I never thought Go Negosyo would grow to have such an impact and influence. Now, during this pandemic, our role has become even more crucial with many MSMEs seeking guidance and support on how to survive and bounce back from this global crisis.
My father, Jose Concepcion Jr., started the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) during the time of the dictatorship, and he gave people hope. As he said, “It is better to light the candle than curse the darkness.” He rallied the people to protect democracy and guard the ballots. A significant number of Filipinos gave up their lives to ensure an honest election. Their sacrifices helped restore democracy through a peaceful revolution. Somehow, I’d like to believe that Go Negosyo is a continuation of my father’s legacy, channeling, and building on that same hopeful vision for our country.
Our work at Go Negosyo is focused on poverty alleviation by creating jobs and helping people with their livelihoods. As we celebrate our 15 years in the midst of this pandemic, we are committed more than ever to our cause. With courage and fortitude, we will continue to fight to save the jobs and livelihoods of our MSMEs.
While our mentorship programs continue to roll out with the same intensity, Go Negosyo also wanted to address another urgent need of the times and launched last March 15, Project ARK, a couple of weeks after the Luzon lockdown. Knowing that the cure or treatment for coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 will take time, we wanted to help create visibility of the infection by means of targeted mass testing. Testing, I believe, is the only way to save people’s jobs and livelihoods.
Project ARK, which has led numerous mass testing efforts using rapid test kits, is proposing a new game-changing strategy in the mitigation of COVID-19. Pool testing was first mentioned by Rep. Janette Garin, our ARK-PCR private sector chief implementer.
Together with the Philippine Society of Pathologists, Inc. (PSPI), we inked an agreement to further increase our country’s testing capacity. PSPI, which is the main proponent of the pragmatic multi-site operational study, aims to validate the accuracy of pooled testing using RT-PCR. The game-changing strategy may be a viable solution to increasing the country’s testing capacity and making testing available and accessible to everyone. This is key to rebuilding the economy.
For this research study, Project ARK will also work with the Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC) SARS-CoV2 Testing Laboratory as the site implementer. The research is spearheaded by Dr. Raymundo W. Lo, MD, FPSP, as the principal investigator, with co-investigators Agnes V. Barrientos, MD, FPSP; Bernadette Espiritu, MD, FPSP; Farrah Kristine F. Santiago, MD, FPSP; Amado O. Tandoc III, MD, FPSP; and Januario D. Veloso, MD, FPSP. The project management and training and research implementation will be handled by Dr. Soccoro Yanez.
I am really glad that the government and our private sector partners are supportive of this program as we are committed to provide whatever is needed to achieve results and maintain momentum. As we open up the economy even more, we are seeking more initiatives that could help us gain greater visibility of the virus, so that IATF and the private sector will be able to successfully navigate this crisis.
The greater challenge we now face is helping those who have lost their jobs and their businesses. This has been brought to light when the government eased into general community quarantine (GCQ) and gradually reopened the economy. We have seen so many people in great despair, incurring debts they do not know how to pay. Banks and other financial institutions are now tightening their grip on credit, seeing which businesses can survive in the economy of the new normal.
We have made substantial progress, but we have to brace ourselves for an uncertain future in this very challenging environment. The IMF announced that this is going to be even worse than the Great Depression. We have no choice but to try and manage the pandemic and prevent it from getting worse. Let us remain vigilant and find ways to best sustain the economy, while protecting as many lives and livelihoods as possible. Testing is the only way, and I believe that the new RT-PCR pooled testing approach is a game-changer.
In the end, what I — through Go Negosyo, Project ARK, and my office as presidential adviser for entrepreneurship — aim to do is explore and exhaust all avenues and approaches to keep our people hopeful. As we work towards recovery, we seek divine guidance and intervention. We pray that our loved ones be protected always, that all our initiatives be fruitful and successful, and that we, as a nation, come out stronger after this crisis.