Palace: PRC’s COVID tests must proceed as Duterte vows to settle PhilHealth debt
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) should now continue its COVID-19 testing services after President Rodrigo Duterte gave his assurance that the government will settle the over P930-million debt of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), Malacañang said Wednesday.
“The President has committed to pay, I don’t think there’s any reason for Red Cross to doubt that the President committed to pay. And because of this, I believe testing should continue because the Red Cross has been assured that they will be paid,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in an interview over CNN Philippines.
Since October 16, PRC stopped conducting tests on arriving overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), passengers in airports and seaports, individuals asking for COVID-19 tests in government swabbing facilities, frontline health and government workers, and others included in the expanded testing guidelines of the Department of Health.
The humanitarian organization said these services cannot resume until PhilHealth pays its overdue balance of P930.99 million.
Since the halt in PRC’s testing, over 4,000 repatriated OFWs are now stranded in Metro Manila due to the delayed release of their swab results.
“The sooner this issue of payment is resolved, the better for our OFWs and the better for the finances of our government. Ang laking problema niyan (This is a big problem),” Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said Tuesday.
In a taped speech aired Monday night, Duterte assured that the government will settle PhilHealth’s debt to the organization.
“Do not worry, we will pay, it will take time but we will pay. We’ll look for the money… Alam ko na itong bayad na ito, babayaran to [I know that this payment, it will be done] in a short while. Do not worry,” Duterte said.
Roque said the government intends to settle half of the debt at the soonest possible time.
The PRC has played a key role in COVID-19 screening in the country. It has conducted over one million coronavirus tests, accounting for over 25% of the total coronavirus testing done in the entire country.
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