Duterte wants probe on allegedly overpriced COVID-19 gear: Palace

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 22 2020 01:31 PM | Updated as of May 23 2020 01:19 AM

President Rodrigo Duterte. Presidential Photo/File

MANILA (UPDATED)- President Rodrigo Duterte wants an investigation into the allegedly overpriced medical equipment and test kits bought by the government for the COVID-19 pandemic, Malacañang said Friday.

Duterte is "bothered" over the reported difference in the prices of equipment bought by the Department of Health and those from the private sector, his spokesman Harry Roque said.

"Bibigyan ko po ng kumpirmasyon na nababahala ang Presidente lalung-lalo doon sa pagkakaiba ng presyo ng testing kit," Roque said in an interview on Teleradyo.

(The President is bothered about the differences in the prices of testing kits.)

Senator Panfilo Lacson earlier this week questioned the Department of Health's decision to buy COVID-19 testing machines and swabbing kits for more than twice the price of similar equipment bought by private companies.

A private company bought nucleic acid extractors needed to process coronavirus tests for P1.75 million each, while the DOH got the machines for P4 million apiece, Lacson disclosed in a Senate Committee of the Whole hearing.

“Bakit mas mahal ang bili ng government kesa bili ng private sector?” the senator asked.

(Why did the government's purchase was more expensive than the private sector's?)

The swabbing system acquired by private sector was at $16 each, but the DOH’s purchase costs were double, according to Lacson, to which the President agreed.

"Hindi po nga niya (Duterte) maintindihan gaya ng buong sambayanan kung bakit ganoon kalaki ang discrepancy," Roque said.

(He cannot understand why there is a huge discrepancy.)

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon also flagged this week PhilHealth's COVID-19 testing packages, saying an P8,150 bundle was "overpriced."

PhilHealth currently offers 3 packages for coronavirus testing ranging from P2,710 to as high as P8,150, "depending on how the test kits were procured by the accredited testing laboratories," according to the firm's website.

PhilHealth President Ricardo Morales said the price was based on data "collected early in the pandemic" and that the incoming test kits will be "cheaper."

Roque on Thursday said the Office of the Special Assistant to the President would look into the issue.