An overlooked area of potential for harnessing public-private partnerships (PPP) in the Philippines is healthcare. Proof of success and sustainability of PPPs in this sector is the current National Malaria Control Program (NMCP)—a concerted effort of the Department of Health and local government units, together with private enterprises, non-profit organizations and benefactors.

The NMCP has successfully reduced sickness and deaths due to malaria by 83 percent and 93 percent, respectively, as of end 2013 compared to 2005 figures. These reductions were achieved ahead of the 2015 deadline set by the sixth UN Millennium Development Goal, which is to halt and reverse the spread of malaria by 50 percent.

From 46,342 confirmed cases recorded in 2005, malaria cases were down to only 7,720 in 2013.  Over the past four years, five more provinces have been declared malaria-free: Camarines Sur, Batanes, Dinagat Island, Romblon, and Batangas, bringing the total to 27.  There are 10 other provinces which have not registered any malaria case for three or more consecutive years, and are now primary candidates for attaining a malaria-free status.

While malaria continues to be a health burden in 53 provinces across the country—putting an estimated six million Filipinos at most risk for contracting the infection, especially children, indigenous peoples, and residents of far-flung areas—the strides that the NMCP has achieved are nothing less than remarkable and impactful. The program’s underlying PPP framework is considered pivotal to its enduring success.

Replicating success

The Movement Against Malaria (MAM) is the country’s current campaign towards malaria elimination. It showcases the PPP in malaria and is supported by the grant for malaria of The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria.

Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. (PSFI), the social development arm of the Shell companies in the Philippines (SciP), is the principal recipient of The Global Fund grant, which manages MAM  in partnership with the DOH, local government units (LGUs), community health workers, and volunteers.  DOH provides technical expertise and overall direction to MAM, while LGUs have been tapped to provide additional resources for the program, including human resources, coordination, transportation, allowances for health workers, and other logistics.

Shell’s involvement in malaria control could be traced back in Palawan as far back as in 1999.  While the construction of the Malampaya Gas-to-Power Project was underway, Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. (SPEX) and its joint venture partners (Philippine National Oil Company–Exploration Corporation and Chevron Malampaya LLC) simultaneously launched a grassroots campaign called Kilusan Ligtas Malaria (KLM).

KLM was the product of a broad stakeholder consultation led by the SPEX joint venture partners, PSFI, and the Provincial Government of Palawan. Local leaders and residents had identified malaria as a major burden in their community—causing almost 80,000 Palaweños to become sick, and hundreds to perish.

The success and effectiveness of KLM did not escape the attention of the Global Fund, which provided PSFI its first grant for a malaria control program covering five provinces (Palawan, Apayao, Quirino, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi) from 2006 to 2009. In 2010, PSFI received recognition for its outstanding management of the program, which also led to another grant by The Global Fund, expanding its coverage to 40 of the 53 malaria endemic provinces in the country.

Transparency and accountability

“Just as Shell has found its own unique role in the Philippines’ Malaria Control Program, I am certain other enterprises, big or small, have roles to play in malaria as well, not only in the Philippines but, across Asia Pacific,” said SciP country chair Edgar O. Chua to private sector players in support of malaria elimination during the Sixth Regional Meeting of the Asia Pacific Malaria Elimination Network held recently in Makati City. 

Shell marks its centennial of operations in the Philippines this year, and PSFI’s involvement in such seminal projects as MAM solidifies the power, energy and gas technology leader’s increasing orientation toward social investment and contribution to nation-building. Shell’s many other areas of focus in its advocacies include youth development, smarter mobility, road safety, environmental management, developing new energy sources, and many more.

Shell has committed to MAM its expertise in community engagement, partnership building, financial management, and procurement and distribution of supplies and logistics, which include long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLIN) and malarial drugs. Religious use of LLINs or mosquito nets lined with insecticide remains to be the best way to prevent malaria.

Moreover, PSFI’s sound financial management has enabled the MAM to realize savings resulting from competitive bidding and procurement practices, transparent use of program funds, use of new technologies to bring down communication and transportation costs, and mobilization of resources from local partners. 

Savings have been re-allocated to procure more goods such as LLINs, spray cans, microscopes, and malaria rapid diagnostic test kits.  Savings realized also allowed for more community health workers to be trained in various livelihood skills to help them augment their incomes so that they may continue to provide services to support the malaria control program.