"In these difficult and trying times, it is so refreshing to write about something good."
A few good men and a lady from the Foreign Trade Service Corps under the Department of Trade, who found themselves freed from the encumbrances of long total lockdowns, have come up with a notable project as their personal contribution to the Filipino people now suffering from the pandemic.
Realizing the effectivity of face masks in preventing community transmission of COVID-19, and the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPEs) in the Philippines, the four—our very own Director of the Philippine Trade and Investment Center in Taipei, Michael Alfred Ignacio; Jojie Dinsay of PTIC in Seoul; Ben Uy in PTIC Brussels; and their senior colleague, Dita Angara-Mathay in Tokyo—embarked on the BEA mask project aimed at manufacturing reusable cloth face masks with HEPA filter inserts, as a practical solution to the Philippines’ lack of access to surgical grade masks.
Dita Angara-Mathay of Tokyo recruited her colleagues in the other capitals in sourcing raw materials and in the actual manufacture of PPE’s. Dita used to be our PTIC Director, also known as commercial counsellor for MECO in Taipei. When she was transferred to Tokyo, Ben Uy, now in Brussels, succeeded her in Taipei. The current PTIC director in Taipei, Mike Ignacio, used to be in New Delhi, and before that, Brussels. Jojie Dinsay of Seoul PTIC used to be assigned in the Middle East, and is now based in South Korea. All four are very professional career members of our DTI foreign service corps.
In the course of PPE raw material sourcing, Dita shared that Nitto Denko whose patented HEPA filter is being used in Europe for N95 masks, could be used as a special insert to the reusable mask.
With personal funds pooled together, the group collaborated with other parties in their networks, putting into good use tools of their trade: networking, research, resource-sharing, social enterprise and innovation.
Through a compelling powerpoint presentation, the group was able to inspire and convince their contacts in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines to support their project. On the production side, they were able to tap a community of disabled seamstresses in Laguna called the United Organization of Persons with Disability, as well as Marillac Hills, a national training school for girls in need of temporary shelter and protective custody.
Japanese companies such as Sumitomo, Nitto Denko and Mitsubishi pitched in with their HEPA filter inserts. The fabrics and cords were provided by the Confederation of Wearables Exporters of the Philippines (CONWEP), Jinwon Trading Co., Ltd., Sun Yueh Corp, MSK Group, MCX International Inc., and Townes, Inc.
Production and labor were provided through the Francis Ferrer Foundation Inc., while printing and packaging came from the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Earl Cua.
Mike Ignacio, our present hard-working investment officer in Taipei told me they named the project “BEA,” short for Beatrice, whose archaic roots translate to “Bringer of joy and blessings.” The logo of Project BEA was designed by a ten-year old boy, Luis Yap, who is the son of a staff officer of our Tokyo trade office.
In these difficult and trying times, it is so refreshing to write about something good, and we applaud these foreign service officers, along with all those who pitched in effort and resources to Project BEA.
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Dr. Robert Redfield, head of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, once again contradicted his president, the muddle-headed Donald Trump, who keeps fooling his people and the world that salvation, through a vaccine, is coming very, very soon—as in right before the presidential elections where he is nine points behind the Democratic candidate, Joe Biden.
It won’t be until the latter part of the second quarter next year, or early third, before a vaccine could be amply distributed, declared Dr. Redfield. For his part, the prevaricating Trump said Redfield was just “misquoted.”
Redfield advised the public that the best weapon against COVID-19, which will linger for some time, is still the face mask.
This is what people in Japan and Taiwan have taken to heart, out of routine practice when ill, and it is what saved them from widespread community transmission.
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We were quite unnerved last week when reports from a labor agency informed MECO that several Filipinos who flew in recently from Taipei, were diagnosed ill of the coronavirus upon arrival. We had to close our offices for disinfection because of the possibility that some of the OFWs had been in our offices, or had been in contact with our ATN and labor officials here, for a quantum of caution.
Informed of this, Taiwan health authorities immediately went into action and as we write this piece, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) was able to track 122 contacts of the OFWs. All tested negative, after both antigen and PCR tests were conducted.
While that gives us a sigh of relief, we wonder about how Taiwan health authorities now regard the trustworthiness of our testing methods and protocols. I hope these incidents are not a case of multi-testing (the highest in SEA, according to Spox Harry) with (occasionally) false results.