SURIGAO CITY–Sen. Richard Gordon led Wednesday the opening of the province’s first molecular testing laboratory (MTL) for coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), seen to boost testing and tracing capabilities of Surigao del Norte and neighboring areas.
“This is the 12th molecular testing laboratory run by the Philippine Red Cross in the country, and the third in Mindanao,” said Gordon, also chairman and chief executive officer of the Philippine Red Cross.
Gordon said the PHP18 million facility uses the real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) method and could process 2,000 samples per day.
The second of its kind in Caraga Region, the facility was donated by Taganito HPAL Nickel Corporation (THPAL) that provided PHP15 million for the project, as well as the Nickel Asia Corporation (NAC) and the latter’s affiliates–Taganito Mining Corporation (TMC) and Cagdianao Mining Corporation (CMC), which contributed PHP3 million.
“May this MTL serve our people in the province, if not in the region, and fast-track our need for a reliable and efficient RT-PCR test at this time of the pandemic,” said THPAL executive vice president and plant manager Osamu Nakai.
Nakai noted that the absence of RT-PCR testing centers in the region has hampered people’s movement and affected many industries in Caraga.
“But we hope that as THPAL continues to operate to aid in the economic recovery of the country, the services of the MTL will strengthen our protocols to prevent the spread of Covid-19,” Nakai added.
Gordon said the facility would be expanded in the future to handle testing for the zika virus, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and other diseases.
He said the Philippine Red Cross is also planning to establish another testing laboratory in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao.
“The Philippine Red Cross has already conducted 1.2 million tests since this pandemic began early last year. The establishment of more RT-PCR testing facilities in Mindanao is expected to widen further our testing capacity,” the senator said.
Aside from THPAL and the other mining firms, Gordon also thanked the Surigao State College of Technology for providing the land for the testing laboratory.
THPAL, which employs more than 4,000 employees, is a hydrometallurgical processing plant operating inside the Taganito Special Economic Zone in the Surigao del Norte town of Claver.
The mining firm converts low-grade nickel laterite ore to produce nickel and cobalt mixed sulfide, the end products of which are exported to Japan for further processing. The final products are used as inputs for the production of medical tools and equipment, electronic batteries, and other industrial materials.
THPAL started operations in 2013 with an investment value of USD1.6 billion.
NAC, on the other hand, is the largest nickel supplier in the country; its affiliate CMC is based in the Dinagat Island town Cagdianao, while TMC operates in Claver, Surigao del Norte. (PR)