MANILA - Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Tuesday said the Department of Health (DOH) should "justify" why it pegged at an estimated P11.7 billion the cost of coronavirus-related contact tracing efforts.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told senators last week that the DOH would need about P11.7 billion to hire 130,000 contact tracers.
"DOH wants to spend P11.7 billion to hire contact tracers. Mayor [Benjamin] Magalong's excellent Baguio contact tracing did not need an amount," he said in a tweet, referring to the contact tracing program of Baguio City.
"We must ask them (DOH) to justify," Sotto told reporters in a text message when asked to clarify if the Senate was not inclined to approve DOH's budget projections for contact tracing.
Contact tracing, or checking on the health status of individuals who were possibly exposed to COVID-19 patients, is one of the methods seen to slow down the spread of the virus as the government can easily isolate potential carriers of the disease to avoid further contamination.
A World Health Organization official earlier urged the Philippine government to expedite its contact tracing program about a week before the country lifts is lockdown in the capital region.
As of May 18, the DOH has traced 86 percent or 64,306 close contacts of COVID-19 patients in the country.