The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $1.5-billion loan to the Philippines to fund its novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19) response and  boost the country’s health care system to fight the pandemic.

“This assistance is our largest budget support loan to the Philippines ever and reflects our strong commitment to providing cornerstone assistance swiftly and effectively to help the country mitigate the pandemic’s devastating impact on Filipinos, particularly the poor and vulnerable, including women,” ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa said in a statement.

The president of the Manila-based multllateral lender said that with the global pandemic, the most vulnerable were developing countries, especially those with densely populated cities such as the Philippines.  He lauded the Philippine government’s actions in containing the spread of Covid-19, citing the scaling up of its health response, enforcing an enhanced community quarantine in Luzon, and providing subsidy programs to affected segments of population.

The ADB said the Philippines was in the first set of countries to implement strict social distancing measures through its enhanced community quarantine, when it temporarily closed schools, government and private offices and closed the borders on the whole of Luzon island beginning March 16.

Luzon accounts for 50 percent of the country’s total population and generates more than 70 percent of gross domestic product. The measures have been effective in slowing the spread of the disease in the local community, the ADB said.

In the same statement, Philippine Finance Secretary and ADB Governor Carlos Dominguez III thanked the lender for ” swiftly responding to the Philippines’ call for funding support in this time of crisis.”

“We thank the bank as well for streamlining its operations to quickly deliver its assistance and for tripling the size of its response package from US$6.5 billion to US$20 billion to help developing member countries combat COVID-19,” he said.

ADB’s “Covid-19 Active Response and Expenditure Support” (Cares) Program will support the Philippine government’s measures to help citizens overcome the health, economic and social costs of the pandemic through increased funding for social protection, especially for women who are primary household and family caregivers; small business relief assistance; and wider health measures to stop the spread of Covid-19 in the country.

The Philippine government’s Covid-19 relief package includes targeted support to Filipino families, including a P205-billion ($4-billion) emergency subsidy program for 18 million families engaged in the informal sector and a P51-billion small business wage subsidy providing a lifeline to 3.4 million workers in the formal sector.  These programs cover 85 percent of all Filipino families.

The ADB extended on March 18 a $5-million grant to deliver food baskets to up to 140,000 vulnerable households in Metro Manila and neighboring areas, in partnership with the government and the private sector.

On March13, the ADB approved a $3-million grant to help the Philippine government acquire emergency medical supplies and set up a new laboratory that will increase the country’s Covid-19 testing capacity by 3,000 per day.

The new laboratory is expected to be fully functional by mid-May 2020.  The ADB is preparing additional funding for social protection and health projects this month and in May. (Melo M. Acuña) 

Source of preview image: ADB