One of the great imbalances of our societal response to COVID-19 has been the overwhelming emphasis on individual safety and personal health without a corresponding measure to ensure the health of our communities.
This pandemic flourishes through community transmission. The very definition of a pandemic means that everyone is affected and thus, our communities must make sure that we come together and take care of those who are most vulnerable. Barricading ourselves behind hermetically-sealed enclaves without addressing the greater need of our vulnerable communities is self-defeating and only ensures a longer isolation program.
On March 24, Dr. Glenn Angeles and I started to discuss how best we can help our community. We identified the lack of hospital spaces and decided to help augment our healthcare capacity by building emergency quarantine facilities (EQFs) for our hospitals. The next day, we started working on the plans and got in touch with Maj. Carmelo Jaluague and Maj. Banjo Badayos of the AFP to further discuss our ideas and enlist the help of our armed forces for logistics and manpower. The next couple of days saw our plans grow from prototyping to building a wide network of EQFs to better address the need for space.
Our team eventually grew to include Gen. William Ilagan, Jason Ang, Rebecca Plaza, Prim Paypon, Arvin Pangilinan, Denise de Castro and so many more architects, builders and soldiers, along with funding and material donations from various donors and vendors.
Construction on the first EQF at the Manila Naval Station in Fort Bonifacio started on March 28 and was completed on April 1. Construction operations would continue to grow and reach up to 28 simultaneous sites at its peak with over 500 builders involved. By May 8, in a little over 40 days, we managed to complete over 1,000 beds in 40 different sites from Bulacan to Batangas. From the beginning, we made the plans open source and available online. This allowed them to be adopted for use for different sites—from Pangasinan, Camarines Sur, to Cebu and Davao, all the way to Singapore and Myanmar. To date, this initiative has led to about 3,171 beds built in various sites in our country alone.