MANILA - Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat on Wednesday said she would be asking the national government to decrease the price of RT-PCR tests, saying the current price of the COVID-19 test remained hefty.
The RT-PCR test, considered as the "gold standard" in COVID-19 testing, is priced around P3,500 in most laboratories in the Philippines, but the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) charges P1,800 while the the Philippine Children's Medical Center (PCMC) collects P1,500 for each swab.
"We still find P3,500 quite expensive... Natataasan ako (I still find it expensive) especially if you're a family of 5," Romulo-Puyat told ANC's Headstart.
"I will again bring this up with the IATF (Inter-Agency task Force) na kung puwede babaan pa kasi ang (that if possible, the standard cost can still be reduced because if) PGH nga can charge P1,800, and PCMC can charge P1,500, why can't others do the same?" she said.
A negative RT-PCR test result is needed for travel to several destinations in the Philippines.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) has been subsidizing RT-PCR tests at the PCMC so that tourists who need to undergo the test would only pay P750.
Local governments also have the option to waive the RT-PCR test requirement for fully vaccinated individuals, the DOT chief said.
"The LGU has a choice now so that really removes a lot," she said.
"I'm always pushing for less travel restrictions, but at the same time it has to be balanced with health and safety," she said.
The tourism industry was among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2019, the tourism sector had a 12.8 percent contribution to the Philippines' gross domestic product. That number dipped to 5.4 percent because of the pandemic, data from the DOT showed.
Some 1 million tourism workers also lost their jobs after several resorts, restaurants and other establishments were forced to stop operations due to COVID-19.