Philippines secures $100-M World Bank loan to fight coronavirus

Ian Nicolas Cigaral - Philstar.com
This March 18, 2020, photo shows heavy traffic along Marcos Highway in Antipolo-Marikina boundary due to checkpoints amid the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon.
The STAR / Walter Bollozos

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines has secured a $100-million “fast-track” loan from the World Bank to augment funding used to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) in the country.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Department of Finance (DOF) said the loan will finance the procurement of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers as well as testing and laboratory materials, quarantine areas, isolation rooms and other essential medical equipment.

The new funding forms part of the Washington-based lender’s “Fast Track COVID-19 Facility” which on Wednesday was also increased to $14 billion from $12 billion as an “urgent support to business and their workers,” said David Malpass, the agency’s president, in a separate statement.

The facility is funded by various World Bank agencies namely the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) contributing $2.7 billion, International Development Association ($1.3 billion), and International Finance Corp. ($6 billion). 

Another $2 billion will come from the lender’s existing portfolio. 

For the Philippines, the loan can be made available to the Department of Health, which leads the government’s response to COVID-19, “in a matter of weeks,” the finance department said.

“We recognize that some goods and equipment are currently not available and stand ready to support you in sourcing them as quickly as possible,” World Bank acting Country Director for the Philippines Achim Fock said in a letter to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III. Parts of the letter was quoted on the DOF statement.

Under the terms, the first year of loan commitment fees chargeable has been waived. “The Philippines is also eligible to receive further financing assistance from IBRD within its normal exposure limits,” DOF said.

The World Bank loan augments the government’s war-chest to fight the spread of the disease, which includes a P27.1 billion economic package to cushion the impact of the outbreak on tourism and jobs.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the government is ready to increase funding "as the effect of the contagion become more evident."

As of Wednesday afternoon, the government reported 15 new cases of coronavirus infection, bringing the country’s total count to 202. Of those cases, 17 died while seven recovered.

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