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EDITORIAL: Long Overdue

Late as it maybe, the decision of Naga City’s LGU to purchase its own RT-PCR Laboratory, more commonly known as swab test machine, by virtue of ordinance no. 2020-084 is a welcome development. Several days prior to that, questions have been circulating specifically how it came to happen that Naga City which revenue wise is wealthier than Legazpi City could not match the latter’s move to acquire three swab testing units.

This is not to say that Legazpi City is managing the Anti-Covid Campaign better than Naga City. Based on the latest DOH Bicol data, as of September 7, 2020, Naga City posted 282 positive cases. However, Legazpi City recorded 251 positive cases for the same period. Population wise Naga City has 230,244 while Legazpi City has 224,534.

Reception to the proposal that the private sector assists in solving the shortage of swab testing machines has been lukewarm. Government has enough funds they pointed out and it is a matter of honest expenditure. Strictly speaking the point is well founded although in times of emergencies a private-public tie up is the call of the hour without prejudice to honest to goodness accounting.

The private initiative proposed by New York based Bicolano lawyer Salvador Tuy Jr., is at a standstill. According to him, he and his sister Dr. Olive Tuy Rancess, are still studying which is more practical, buy a brand new equipment or have the present machine repaired.

The private-public initiative suffered another setback when most staffers of DWNX led by Station Manager Al Ubaña tested positive for Covid-19. The tie up therefore had to be put on hold at that time when swab testing became very complicated to the extent that swab samples had to be transported either to Leyte or Pampanga thereby raising the possibility of reducing the integrity of the test results.

In the meantime an inquiry from the regional office of DOH through Legazpi-based veteran journalist Mar Serrano Arguelles revealed that the swab testing machine cost ranges from 2.5 to 4 million pesos depending on the brand. Laboratory insiders said that they need more consumables, presumably testing kits.

According to them there are already four PCR machines and what they need most are BSC or Bio Safety Cabinet, because there is only one bio safety machine which is most needed since supply of automated extraction kits are becoming scarce. BSC is for banking, inactivation and extraction purposes, it was explained.

This DOH statement should serve as a practical guide in the acquisition of facilities related to the campaign against the spread of Covid-19. More pointedly this must focus on contact tracing and swab testing. On the part of BMC, it has long admitted that it often encounters shortage of test kits for which reason the swab testing machine is not utilized to the maximum.

On this score considering that Naga City is already purchasing a swab test machine it is not farfetched that once swab testing activities go massive there would be shortage of test kits, which to our understanding are consumable.

For a considerable period of time already, a privately initiated swab testing machine is making rounds within several towns of Camarines Sur, courtesy of former first district representative Rolando Andaya Jr. But that is a purely a private project.

Camarines Sur is a very wealthy province that is why it is called the premiere province of Bicol Region. Politics wise it has the most numbers of political districts. Is it asking too much for the provincial leadership to assume the cost of consumable test kits?

Note that the present provincial leadership with the able guidance of Deputy Speaker Luis Raymond Villafuerte, is well connected with the powers-that-be.

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