PRC bio-molecular lab at Clark Airport not covered by a signed agreement?

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    GOVERNMENT auditors are pressing the Clark International Airport Corporation (CIAC) to execute a memorandum of agreement with the Clark Development Corporation (CDC) and the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) to govern the operations of a bio-molecular laboratory inside the airport complex.

    They noted that the PRC laboratory has been inaugurated on June 19, 2020 and was subsequently accredited as a certified COVID-19 testing center and opened to the public on June 30, 2020.

    However, the audit team said the CIAC has not submitted a copy of a signed and duly notarized memorandum of agreement between itself, the CDC and PRC governing the operations of the laboratory.

    “The (airport) management averred that the MOA was not yet signed due to the incongruities with the term of the agreement which was originally set for five years. Our interview with the CIAC management revealed that the PRC is not amenable to the term of five years under the MOA as they were negotiating for a longer term with the CIAC Board of Directors,” the auditors said.

    The president and chief executive officer of CIAC has agreed to the COA recommendation to take steps to fast track the finalization of the MOA and to give due consideration to the stake of the CIAC, specifically the use of its property.

    The lab is housed in a building with a total floor area of 1,289 square meters standing on an open lot measuring 2,806 square meters on Ninoy Aquino Avenue inside the Clark Civil Aviation Complex, Clark Freeport Zone.

    At maximum operational capacity, the laboratory is projected to be able to process up to 2,000 COVID-19 tests each day with its two reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) machines.

    “Incidentally, the Board did not approve yet the proposal considering that the occupancy of the PRC in the said premises is free of charge,” the audit team said.

    Under the proposed MOA, the PRC is supposed to “prioritize the needs of the provinces of Pampanga and Tarlac and the rest of Central Luzon” for the services of the laboratory subject to its agreements with the said local government units.

    Based on the same provisions, however, neither the CIAC nor the CDC is getting any similar privileges.

    “The commencement of the operation of the afore-cited molecular laboratory prior to the signing of the MOA cast doubts on the validity and enforceability of the said agreement, notwithstanding the best intentions of the parties involved,” the Commission on Audit said.