In January 2020, the team behind the World Trade Center (WTC) Metro Manila in Pasay was about to begin work on the expansion of its 10,000-square-meter space. But then, Taal Volcano erupted, and soon after, the COVID-19 pandemic made us all stop dead in our tracks.
With the increasing threat of the coronavirus, exhibitions and annual events—a lot of which are held every year at the WTC—have been cancelled. Suddenly, there were empty, quiet halls at the popular event venue, owned by the Manila Exposition Complex, Inc, an affiliate company of the Investment and Capital Corporation of the Philippines or ICCP Group chaired by Guilly Luchangco.
Pamela Pascual, the president and chief executive officer (CEO) of WTC Metro Manila, remembers brainstorming on how these empty halls could be repurposed to fight the pandemic. “I thought perhaps, it would be good to work with the government and offer the space as a supplemental healthcare facility, to augment the gap in the healthcare system,” Pascual tells ANCX in a phone interview. “But, I didn’t know whom to talk to. I was advised to wait and see how the developments will move forward.”
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Last week, Ayala Corporation reached out to Luchangco, who is also the chairman and CEO of ICCP. They spoke about collaborating and converting the WTC into a healthcare facility. The big space, after all, has been flexible, and was used in big events, such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit, and even the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
“It’s something that we really want to do because it’s our own little way of contributing to the nation,” Pascual says. “We just want to help quell the spread of the virus.”
Inside the quarantine
The Makati Development Corporation (MDC) and Ayala Corporation will be in charge of setting up and converting the hall into a quarantine area.
There will be 502 beds in place, and each one will be separated by privacy panels. A nurses’ station will be located at the lobby area. The Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) medical team will handle the operations, including the provision of the equipment. However, Pascual says their staff has yet to meet with the AFP medical team.
On top of the restrooms that are already present in the venue, Manila Water will install additional portable toilets outside of the building, which will be accessible through a direct access point. Shower cubicles will also be installed.
As of Friday, Manila Electric Company (Meralco) has agreed to split the electricity bill with Ayala Corporation. Pascual says that this is great news because their largest operating expense has always been electricity. (According to Luchangco, the WTC's electricity bill is around one million pesos a day.) Other directly-related expenses, such as water, supplies, manpower, etc., will be taken care of by the government. The whole operation will be rent-free.
Pascual and her team have been in talks with Department of Health (DOH), the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), and the Presidential Adviser for Flagship Programs and Project Vince Dizon to implement the project. She clarifies, however, that the WTC quarantine area will only be for mild-asymptomatic COVID positive patients, as advised by the DOH. They will not be accepting patients with moderate to severe cases.
“DOH explained that it’s easier to manage patients with similar or the same conditions as the mild-asymptomatic ones,” Pascual says. “It is because it’s an open-spaced hall. There will be panels, but overhead, it’s all open. For Persons Under Investigation (PUIs) and Persons Under Monitoring (PUMs), they need to be completely isolated, and they need private toilets, which is not possible to do at the WTC. So in the beginning, we all thought that PUIs and PUMs will be suitable. But based on the DOH guidelines, that was the decision.”
Since they announced their plan, many companies and groups have come forward, and offered their help. The WTC had already received Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) donations. And there are several hotels that will be sending beddings, linens, and towels. “It’s heartwarming to know that there are a lot of people who just want to contribute,” Pascual says.
As of press time, the WTC quarantine area is scheduled to be fully operational by April 11, until further notice.
“We’ll play it by ear, how we will move along, because we are still monitoring whether enhanced community quarantine (EQC) will be extended, and how the scenario will improve once all these centers are commissioned to operate,” Pascual says.
For donations and other concerns about WTC, contact Wines Mariano, AVP for Operations: 0917 883 0423.