Red Cross says open to settlement as PhilHealth debt mounts

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 16 2020 11:06 AM | Updated as of Oct 16 2020 11:22 AM

Philippine Red Cross (PRC) chairman and CEO Sen. Richard Gordon greets a beneficiary at the Dr. Juan G. Nolasco Highschool in Tondo, Manila on July 3, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Philippine Red Cross is open to settling the outstanding bill of state insurer PhilHealth for its COVID-19 testing, its corporate secretary said Friday.

In a statement on Thursday, the non-profit organization said PhilHealth's outstanding balance was at P930 million. It rose to P1.014 billion as of Friday, said Red Cross Corporate Secretary Rodolfo Reyes.

PhilHealth last paid Red Cross on September 8, said Reyes.

"We’re open to settlement, we’re open to talks, we have not taken any hard line positions, except ‘Please pay us.’ We hope it’s P930 (million)—we’re going to press for that, of course, because that’s long overdue," he told ANC's Headstart.

"But we’re willing to listen to them. Our hearts are not hardened. It’s just that we have no choice at the moment because non-payment of that overdue amount is severely impacting our operations," he said.

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Red Cross announced Thursday it is stopping its PhilHealth-funded COVID-19 testing, including specimen from overseas Filipino workers, those arriving in seaports and airports, and from the mega swabbing facilities through local governments.

"It’s not as if we’re stocking up this money to fill Red Cross’ coffers. Umiikot ito, kailangang mabayaran 'yung test kits and reagents so that we can continue to function. Aside from that we have to take care of other disasters in case they come up," said Reyes.

He said Red Cross would like a "substantial portion" of the P930-million bill paid, if not all.

"I think PhilHealth can pay, they just have to resolve some internal issues on their own. I think they’re taking care of that," he said.

In an interview with Teleradyo, PhilHealth spokesperson Rey Baleña said the delayed payment is part of the review that newly installed chief Dante Gierran is conducting to check its partnership with Red Cross.

Gierran took over PhilHealth leadership after its former president, Ricardo Morales, resigned at the height of allegations of corruption in the agency. Morales and several officials were recommended to be prosecuted for irregularities.