MANILA — The Philippines' top diplomat on Tuesday hurled expletives and told an opposition senator to "shut up" after the lawmaker questioned why the government appeared to favor imported coronavirus test kits that did not go through the same "rigid evaluation" compared to locally-produced units.
The Philippines use test kits from China and South Korea because "they're proved to f****** work," said Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.
"What's wrong with you. Shut up if you have nothing intelligent to say. P********," the country's top diplomat wrote on Twitter in all caps.
"I am not going to let our people die in the name of Filipino first. P********," he added.
On Sunday, the Food and Drug Administration under the Department of Health said it had approved the commercial use of the first Filipino-made test kits by the University of the Philippines scientists. Authorities recalled the kits in mid-May to undergo re-validation due to a minor deficiency.
Pangilinan said earlier Tuesday that the DOH should explain why it did not prioritize the mass production of the UP test kits priced at P1,320. Units from South Korea and China cost between P4,000 and P8,000, he said.
"As concerned as we are for the health of the Filipinos, we are also keenly looking after the well-being of our state coffers," Pangilinan said. "Every peso of meaningful, honest, and transparent spending and saving will go a long way, especially amid an economic crisis."
"Ang sabi sa atin ng mga insiders sa DOH, walang kahirap-hirap ang mga imported test kits, samantalang pinahirapan talaga itong gawa ng Pinoy," he added. "Kung hindi pa natin kinalampag nung isang araw baka umabot pa nang taon bago gamitin."
(According to our insiders in the DOH, imported test kits did not undergo rigid evaluation, while Filipino-made test kits were really scrutinized. If we did not call for its use over the weekend, maybe it would take years before the Filipino-made test kits could be used.)
India and several European countries earlier complained about the accuracy of some Chinese-made tests, which prompted Beijing in April to step up its oversight of exported kits.
Manila's Department of Health in March also said some test kits that China donated were only 40 percent accurate. The agency later apologized and said the kits were at par with those from the World Health Organization (WHO).
-- With a report from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News