The first Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory (MDL) for COVID-19 testing in MIMAROPA region put up by the Palawan provincial government in Barangay Irawan, Puerto Princesa City is expected to begin full operation in May 2021.

The facility, inaugurated Tuesday, is currently awaiting its license to operate before it opens.

The facility, once operational, will add to the province’s RT-PCR testing capacity which is currently relying only on two GeneExpert laboratory located at the Ospital ng Palawan (ONP) in the capital and another at the Culion Sanitarium and General Hospital (CSGH).

Present during the inauguration ceremony were Palawan Governor Jose Ch. Alvarez, 3rd District Representative Atty. Gil Acosta Jr., Department of Health (DOH) Assistant  Secretary Dr. Maria Francia M. Laxamana, and DOH-MIMAROPA OIC-Regional Director IV Dr. Mario D. Baquilod.

Provincial health officer Dr. Faye Erika Labrador said the P19-million facility funded by the provincial government and DOH will improve and enhance COVID-19 testing in the province. It will also be opened to the residents of Puerto Princesa City and local tourists.

Some P9 million of its funding came from the provincial government’s COVID-19 Response Fund under the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) while another P10 million came from the DOH through its Bayanihan Act Grant.

“Ang ating COVID cases ay tumataas. The creation of this one of a kind Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory through the commanding efforts of our governor under his IHELP Program, the DOH and the PGP will help in faster case finding, faster management and for the improvement of health of every Palaweños,” Labrador said.

Medical technologists who will be assigned in the facility also underwent trainings.

Medicial technologist and unit head Cyrus Caabay said they have to ensure the systematic and clean process because receiving to issuance of result is sensitive.

He said the facility is also equipped with biosafety, biosecurity, and other high-technology equipment to ensure the safety of the persons assigned in every room or station.

“Mahalaga ang proseso dito and at the same time ay very sensitive din dahil live virus and ating kinakaharap. Kapag nagleak ito ay nakapadelikado sa mamamayan at sa environment. Bawal pumasok dito ang hindi naka PPE na technologist. Then lahat ng specimen ay talagang mahigpit ang pagdadaanan na proseso,” Caabay said.

He added that the facility can process up to 96 specimens or sample per batch and can accept up to four batches of the samples per day.

Results will also be released within the same day of testing.

“May oras kasi na sinusunod. Per batch ay 96 samples, sa isang araw ay kayang tumanggap ng hanggang apat na batch, 96 times four, ganon kadami. Lalabas din ang result within the day,” he said.

Dr. Mario Baquilod, DOH MIMAROPA regional director, explained that results from the laboratory is more accurate.

“Kung magkaiba ang result ng RT-PCR at antigen ay ito [lab result] ang ating susundin,” he said.

Governor Alvarez said the same facilities will be also be put up in four towns of the province.

“Ito ay para sa lahat, hindi lang para sa probinsya kasama ang lungsod ng Puerto Princesa. Una lang ito, mayroon pa tayong itatayo sa Brooke’s Point, El Nido, Coron, at San Vicente,” Alvarez said.

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is the chief of correspondents of Palawan News. She covers defense, politics, tourism, health, and sports stories. She loves to travel and explore different foods.