Stabilizing the economy while awaiting the vaccine


While we continuously connect with vaccine suppliers to secure doses of hope for everyone, the Go Negosyo Team, with our private partners, continues to look for ways on how we can aid the business sector in stabilizing the economy – gradually opening up the economy in the safest way possible while we wait for the vaccines to arrive and be rolled out. Recently, I had two interviews where I highlighted the primacy of testing innovations while we wait for the vaccine and on how we can rationalize the expected downtrend in our GDP and recover from it. Here are some highlights of those interviews:


On Testing Innovation – with Menchu Macapagal on CNN


Menchu: Sir, I know you’ve been very aggressive in terms of finding new technology to combat COVID-19 sa business sector. After po ng Red Cross, handa ba ang mga negosyante sa saliva test naman?


Joey: Pagkatapos naming nag-research dito sa Pooled Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing at na-approve ng DOH under a DOH Memorandum which set the protocol na pools of five sa isang test kit, sinundan agad namin ito ng research na ginagawa with the Philippine Society of Pathologists (PSP). Kasama dito si Dr. Julius Lecciones ng Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC) at Dr. Raymundo Lo ng PSP – which is also the lead for this research. Our current PCR testing is using swab, so nagre-research kami kung pwedeng gamitin ang saliva. With Red Cross, tama yung sinabi nila na ang saliva is as accurate as using swab.


Menchu: Thank you for pointing that out, Sir. Are you going to be investing in something like this? Same test kits?


Joey: There is no investment, right now this is still the same, a PCR test. The gold standard for testing is still PCR. Yung method na sina-swab sa ilong at sa throat, medyo masakit. Kaya ngayon instead of swabbing, saliva na ang gagamitin.


Menchu: But basically, same process?


Joey: It’s the same lab equipment. Except dito sa saliva, makaka-minus ka ng extraction machine at cost for swabbers – so overall, yung cost niyan bababa. Mas madali din ito and less invasive. The most important thing sa pananaw ko, mas komportable ang magte-test.


Menchu: Sa ngayon, ang Red Cross pa lang po ang binibigyan ng authority para gamitin itong saliva testing process. Do you hope na mabigyan din ang private sector ng go signal para mas mapalawak pa ang testing capabilities ninyo with the saliva testing?


Joey: Dapat eventually, lahat ng laboratories that are doing PCR testing. I think Red Cross is doing their own research, that’s ideal. Pero yung ginagawa namin with Dr. Lecciones and Dr. Lo, we are doing it with Philippine Society of Pathologists. Galing ‘yan sa isang research na imbis na isang tao sa isang test kit, ang ginagawa na namin five people sa isang test kit, ’yun ang tinatawag na pooled PCR Testing.


The second part of the research instead of using swab, we will use saliva. In other words, kung pumasa, wala ng swabbing at saliva na. Mas makamumura kung nagpo-pool ka ng limang tao sa isang test kit. Eventually, sa formal research na gagawin namin, hopefully, the DOH will approve, lahat ng lab will have to be trained on how to do the saliva.


On GDP and Recovery – with Henry Usi and Missy Hista on DZRH


Henry: Sa puntong ito, ano ang may pinakamalaking tama sa pagbagsak ng GDP natin?


Joey: Well, sa year 2020 mula March, nagsarado ang ekonomiya natin at naapektuhan ang lahat dito. Nagsimula yung pandemic nung period na ’yan so expected itong GDP natin na babagsak at may mga industries na talagang tatamaan katulad ng tourism – halos lahat ng mga isla natin na may mga resort ay naka-lockdown nung panahon na ’yan. Yung lockdown dito sa buong Luzon, malaki ang tinamaan diyan dahil sa strict movement, halos mga shopping centers, malls, retails, and fast food during the two and half month of lockdown, nagsarado.


Lahat ng entrepreneurs dito kahit yung MSMEs at yung mga large companies tinamaan. Yung mga nagtatayo ng bagong pabrika, mga entertainment cities, malls, pati real estate, lahat walang exempted. Pati yung mga credit cards tumigil na rin, nahirapan ang mga tao na magbayad – all of these is because of the pandemic. Hindi ito kagaya ng economic situation na nangyari sa ibang bansa katulad ng US financial crisis, Asian crisis, ito ay nangyari dahil sa isang health crisis na lumala sa buong mundo – marami ang namamatay. Kaya yung government natin, sinarado na lang muna nila dito para ma-quarantine ang mga tao sa bahay nila.


Henry: No country is exempted dito sa nangyaring ito PA Joey, tama po ba?


Joey: Oo, lahat. Tignan natin yung kalagayan ng mga airlines sa buong mundo, halos lahat sila bankrupt. Ang mga stores around the world, marami ang nagsasarado na rin, some are close for good. Every country in this world is affected, maybe the exemption of Taiwan kasi sa una palang talagang pursigido sila sa pag-control. I can only think of Taiwan but even then if Taiwan is not affected, their trading partners are affected. Semi-conductor ang main industry ng Taiwan, so if 80 percent of the world is affected, everybody will be affected. Now the challenge is anong gagawin natin dito, anong plano natin moving forward.


Missy: How do we actually move forward? When do we move forward? And what to do para maka-move forward po tayo?


Joey: Well, under President Duterte, ang kagandahan kay President Duterte ay very determined siya. Ang una niyang ginawa is to save lives, pero now we are not only saving lives, ang kailangan natin is both lives and livelihoods. Yung infection level natin ay tumaas, then nag-stable, pero yung kalagayan ng mga negosyante na tinamaan, what are we going to do about that.


Yung programa ni Sec. Sonny Dominguez dito sa finance – the “Create Bill” – at yung government spending, those are important. So in the year 2021, ang priority natin ay ayusin yung problema natin sa health. Sa ginawa ng Go Negosyo noong March, lahat ng mga testing methods and innovations, ’yun ang pinili namin. Marami kaming dinonate na PCR equipment, nagpalabas kami ng research about pooled testing, at ngayon susubukan namin ang saliva-based testing.


Pero ang importante ngayon yung vaccine kasi ito talaga ang solusyon dito. Ang ginagawa ni Sec. Galvez, hinahanap niya lahat ng pwedeng kunin na vaccine para sa ating bansa. Pati ang private sector kasama namin dito kaya inilunsad namin ang ‘A Dose of Hope.’ Sa tingin ko in this year 2021, kailangan i-vaccinate natin at the very minimum at least close to half of our population before the end of the year. I know it’s a tall order pero kung gusto nating buksan talaga ang ekonomiya natin, wala ng ibang solusyon kung hindi ito lang.