Implementing Agency:

City Government of Iloilo

Year Implemented:

March 2020-present


Management for Productivity, Quality, and Agility, and Perspectives on Productivity, Governance, and Development

General Description

The City Government of Iloilo initiated localized mass testing towards the end of March 2020 after the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) accredited the Western Visayas Medical Center in Mandurriao District to conduct COVID-19 testing.

Background and Problem

A critical step towards mitigating the spread of COVID-19 is using disease surveillance to monitor its effects on a population (Pan American Health Organization, 2020) (Nature, 2020) (Health Management, 2020). An important aspect of disease surveillance is mass testing, which can only be done by fully equipped and capacitated laboratories. This, however, was lacking in the Philippines during the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Solution and Impact

The City Government of Iloilo, led by Mayor Jerry Treñas, were early advocates for mass testing as a means of managing the pandemic (ANC, 2020). Only weeks after large sections of the country were put into lockdown, the City Government sought accreditation for the Western Visayas Medical Center Laboratory to be able to conduct reliable and efficient testing for the virus. Early identification of positive cases helps in the containment of the virus, especially for asymptomatic cases that may unknowingly be contagious, and is one of the best proactive measures that the government can take while vaccines are still being developed..

To supply the Laboratory with the necessary equipment, the Iloilo City Government partnered with business groups, the Department of Health (DOH), and the University of the Philippines – Visayas to obtain reverse transcription – polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test kits (ANC, 2020) (Rappler, 2020), personal protective equipment (PPE) suits, a PCR machine (UP Visayas, 2020), an RNA extraction machine, viral nucleic acid kits, and an IMI ventilator set (Daily Guardian, 2020).

Efforts were also made to further expand the city’s testing capacity. The Alternating Learning System (ALS) building in Barangay San Pedro, Molo was converted into a temporary molecular laboratory in September 2020, while the Uswag Molecular Laboratory was established 14 November 2020. The latter also handles the testing of specimens from Iloilo Province.


In recognition of its initiatives, the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) cites Iloilo City for its mass testing efforts. LCP mentions that several policymakers and leaders from the public and private sectors in the country recognize that mass testing is key to reopening the economy while a vaccine is being formulated (Philippine Information Agency, 2020).

They also presented their experiences in mobilizing early localized mass testing during webinars with LCP and CITYNET, a regional network of local authorities for the management of human settlement in the Asia-Pacific region (CITYNET, 2021).


Uswag Molecular Laboratory Building and Facilities 

(Source: Mayor Jerry Treñas Facebook Page)


ANC. (2020, April 3). How this mayor turned Iloilo into a model city with its ‘all action’ approach 

to fight COVID-19.


CITYNET. (2021, February 22). Nepal NC hosts an international webinar on DRRM and lessons 

from COVID-19.


Daily Guardian. (2020, October 7). New lab to boost COVID testing in Iloilo City

Health Management Org. (2020, March 27). Where Are the Most Effective Anti-COVID-19 



Nature. (2020, April 27). Whose coronavirus strategy worked best? Scientists hunt most effective 


Pan American Health Organization. (2020, November 11). PAHO outlines best practices to control

COVID-19 pandemic.


Philippine Information Agency. (2020, May 13). LCP cites Iloilo City for mass testing efforts

PICAO. (2020, November 16). Uswag Molecular Laboratory. Official Website of the Provincial 

Government of Iloilo City.

Rappler. (2020, July 1). How Iloilo City became ‘Wakanda’ of the Philippines

University of the Philippines Visayas. (2020, March 17). UPV alumni initiates meeting to allow 

COVID-19 testing in Iloilo soon.