MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) should only give partial payment to its over P930-million debt to Philippine Red Cross (PRC) while their agreement on coronavirus testing is being reviewed, Malacañang said Friday.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said this was the legal opinion of the Department of Justice (DOJ) over the issue which has affected the country’s COVID-19 testing campaign, particularly in screening returning Filipinos for the respiratory disease.
In a statement, Roque reiterated that President Rodrigo Duterte has given his commitment that the government will pay its obligation to the humanitarian organization.
“Further, the Department of Justice has given its legal opinion that the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) has to provide partial payment to the PRC while the memorandum of agreement between PhilHealth and the PRC is undergoing review,” Roque said.
“Having said this, we call on the PRC to resume its testing services,” he added.
Roque issued the statement after Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the PRC, demanded that the debt be paid in its whole amount, rejecting the government’s plan to settle half of PhilHealth’s obligation by next week.
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, front-line health and government workers, and others included in the expanded testing guidelines of the Department of Health. The PRC is charging PhilHealth P3,500 for every test.
The organization said these services cannot resume until PhilHealth pays its overdue balance of P930.99 million.
Roque said earlier said the government will pay 50% of PhilHealth’s debt at the soonest possible time, adding that the amount is already “substantial” and should be enough for the organization to resume testing PhilHealth clients.
Since the PRC’s testing stoppage, over 4,000 repatriated OFWs are now stranded in Metro Manila due to the delayed release of their swab results.
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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