MANILA - The Department of Tourism is calling for cheaper COVID-19 tests to encourage domestic travel as part of the agency's push to revive the battered tourism industry.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said the current cost of COVID-19 test remains "expensive and out of reach" for budget-conscious travelers.
"The added cost of COVID-19 tests can be quite significant especially for big families traveling together," she said.
"I brought this up with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) because a slash in the cost of RT-PCR tests would encourage more travelers to pursue their travel plans."
The RT-PCR test, considered as the "gold standard" in COVID-19 testing, is priced between P1,5000 to P5,000, she said. The government's pandemic task force also received reports that facilities charged as high as P10,000.
Last year, the government imposed a price cap of P5,000 for private laboratories and P3,800 for public laboratories. Those who will overcharge will be penalized.
The tourism chief said lowering the price cap would also provide relief to returning overseas Filipinos and migrant workers who are required to comply with the existing health protocol.
In her statement, Puyat also called for the certification of more facilities performing saliva-based RT-PCR tests. For now, only the Philippine Red Cross has been allowed by the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine to conduct such test, which costs P2,000.
"If more hospitals and laboratories are certified to conduct saliva tests, this cheaper alternative will be more accessible to the public and will be recognized by more LGUs in their entry requirements for local travelers," she said.
"But needless to say, the facilities conducting such tests should be thoroughly screened. We defer to DOH in addressing this concern,” she added.
To encourage more Filipinos from traveling, the agency has been subsidizing RT-PCR tests in partnership with the Philippine Children's Medical Center and the UP- Philippine General Hospital.
Domestic tourists who need to undergo the test would only pay P750 and over 41,000 have benefited from the program.