Duterte vows to pay gov’t debt to PH Red Cross after group halts COVID tests

President Rodrigo Duterte. Photo: Presidential Communications/FB
President Rodrigo Duterte. Photo: Presidential Communications/FB

The country’s state insurer will pay the Philippine Red Cross its PHP930 million (US$19.114 million) debt, President Rodrigo Duterte said last night in a publicly broadcast meeting.

Read: PhilHealth to settle PHP930 million debt to PH Red Cross, says chief Gierran

“The Red Cross, don’t worry, we will pay this. We’re just looking for a way to present the solution to the Commission on Audit and the [Department of] Budget. Do not worry. We will pay. It will take time, but we’ll pay. We’ll look for the money,” he said in English and Filipino.

Led by Senator Richard Gordon, the Red Cross announced last week that it had stopped giving “free” COVID-19 swab tests to returning overseas Filipino workers, frontliners, and passengers, citing the mounting debt incurred by the Philippine Health Insurance (PhilHealth), which pays for the tests.

Despite the non-profit’s announcement, Duterte said that he is confident that the organization will continue giving the swab tests.

Read: Filipino workers returning from low-risk countries will no longer be tested for COVID

“It’s not a lot, but our priorities really are medical — medical treatment, medical attention. We will pay for this in a short while. Do not worry,” the president said.

He added that “money has always been a problem” in his government’s COVID-19 response.

“We had to disburse a lot of money, and we are trying to make both ends meet. This is like a rubber band; we’re stretching our resources,” the chief executive said.

PhilHealth chief Dante Gierran said last week that the state insurer could not settle its debt immediately because certain rules of procurement were not followed when it forged an agreement with the Red Cross. He also promised that the PhilHealth, whose former officers are currently embroiled in a corruption scandal, would pay the Red Cross.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health announced yesterday that returning overseas migrant workers from countries with low to moderate COVID-19 cases would no longer be tested. According to experts, the returning workers have a “small” probability of carrying the coronavirus, Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.



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