Fernando Zobel de Ayala's Opening Remarks at Ayala Enterprise Circle – Health and Wellness for SMEs in the Time of COVID-19
Good afternoon everyone. Thank you for taking the time to join us today—and I hope that you all are keeping safe and healthy during these challenging times. I am delighted to welcome you to our second Ayala Enterprise Circle virtual forum, focusing on Health and Wellness for SMEs in the Time of COVID-19.
For those joining us for the first time, let me just provide a quick background on the Ayala Enterprise Circle. The AEC is the Ayala Group’s platform to support and engage our country’s Small and Medium Enterprises. SMEs are critical components of the economy, comprising 99.5% of the country’s registered businesses, and accounting for 63% of employment and 35% of the national GDP. Within the Ayala Group, 250,000 SMEs are vital economic partners of our different companies. We thank all our SME partners for your continued trust and support.
Through the AEC, we aim to provide access to useful information, tools, and partners to enable SMEs to scale and succeed through various exclusive programs. This webinar is part and parcel of a larger set of activities within the AEC, which includes industry expert mentorship, online classes and masterclass training, and business-matching and co-marketing opportunities. We will provide further information on these in the next few months. We hope that you will join us as members of this exclusive network.
The Ayala Enterprise Circle is just one component of the Ayala Group’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Early in the crisis, we felt that it was important to find ways where we can meaningfully help the country. As we were thinking about our response as a group of companies, we made sure that the principles of Putting People First and Public-Private Partnerships will be central to our decision-making.
When the Enhanced Community Quarantine was announced back in March, our immediate priority was the welfare of the stakeholders that we touch daily. This includes our employees, our suppliers and partners—which includes all of you—and the broader community. We continue to develop programs to help in the economic and health needs of our stakeholders during the current pandemic, and in the near future, when the world finally recovers from this emergency.
Despite the pains that COVID-19 has caused, it opened an opportunity for different sectors to come together and work for a common purpose. Over the last three months, it was very encouraging to see both the government and private sector working this close together on several initiatives.
Out of this crisis, we saw a tremendous opportunity to help upgrade the country’s facilities and capabilities. Health and Wellness is one area where there is strong Public-Private Partnership. This was done through Task Force T3, which counts close to 40 private organizations working hand-in-hand with government on the COVID-19 response effort.
For Ayala, our teams at our healthcare company, AC Health, quickly mobilized and developed a Triage, Testing, Treatment, and Tracking framework to assist both our employees and the broader public. Let me just quickly go through some components of the framework:
On patient screening, which we call triage, we continued to operate over 75 of our FamilyDOC and Healthway clinics to provide extended frontline services, and non-COVID-related treatments to patients. As of the second week of June, we have screened and referred to appropriate facilities over 15,000 suspected cases of COVID-19. In addition to our physical clinics, we also recently launched HealthNow, a free web-based platform that connects patients and doctors for teleconsultation services.
On Testing, the Ayala Group is part of a consortium of several companies that is building 7 laboratories capable of the gold standard RT-PCR tests for COVID-19. This will add approximately 5,500 tests per day to our national testing capacity. Two of these facilities have already been inaugurated: a laboratory in the Tropical Disease Foundation in Makati and QualiMed Sta. Rosa in Nuvali. We have also completed the installation of the RT-PCR machines in University of Cebu Medical Center and Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City. For interested parties, AC Health is offering rapid testing services to companies and individuals. Our friends from AC Health will be able to provide more information on this service later in our program.
On Treatment, one key initiative is the upgrading of QualiMed Sta. Rosa in Nuvali into a COVID-19 facility. As mentioned, we have already completed a COVID-19 testing laboratory and triage area. This is one piece of a larger effort to improve the hospital’s capabilities, which includes the construction of quarantine areas, expansion of ICU facilities, increase in the number of beds for COVID-19 patients, and recruitment of a top-notch team of well-trained, fully-equipped, and protected medical professionals.
Aside from this, together with the Department of Public Works, the ICCP Group, and other partners, Ayala led in the conversion of the World Trade Center into a 502-bed quarantine facility, which is the biggest in the country and was completed in just seven days. We also constructed swabbing booths for the testing requirements of our returning OFWs.
These are just some of the many initiatives where the public and private sectors are working together for a strong and effective response to COVID-19. This crisis has highlighted the opportunity to upgrade our country’s healthcare capacity. COVID-19 has shown us how important it is to stay at the forefront of the country’s needs, and we remain committed to helping improve the country’s healthcare system moving forward.
However, let us continue to keep in mind that the battle against the virus is far from over and there will continue to be challenges, given the unprecedented scale and nature of this crisis. Nevertheless, with quarantine restrictions relaxing and parts of the economy steadily restarting, I encourage everyone to continue to remain vigilant. Most importantly, I encourage everyone to continue placing the health and safety of our people and employees at the top of our priorities. They are, after all, the main reason why our businesses exist. We hope that this afternoon’s dialogue will provide valuable insights and guidance on how your businesses can best navigate today’s challenging times.
We have a full agenda today, so let me not take any longer and quickly introduce our guests for today.
We are privileged to have Dr. Manuel M. Dayrit, our former Health Secretary, who was the lead person of government during the SARS outbreak back in 2003. He will be sharing with us his views on the COVID-19 crisis from a public health perspective, as well as present some thoughts on the various health challenges that are affecting Small and Medium Enterprises.
We also have Paolo Borromeo, President and CEO of AC Health, who will talk on various healthcare access options for SMEs as we transition out of strict quarantine and as we recover from the pandemic. He will also be joined by members of our leadership team from Generika Drugstore, our FamilyDOC and Healthway clinics, and our Health Technologies company, Vigos to respond to your specific questions on healthcare access.
Once again, thank you for joining us this afternoon. I look forward to an enlightening and productive session. I wish you all continued strength of health and spirit in these difficult times.