Philippine Red Cross forced to stop construction of laboratories
MANILA - Philippine Red Cross chair Sen. Richard Gordon on Monday said the agency would stop the "construction of new provincial molecular laboratories" in several provinces after the Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth) failed to settle its P1.1-billion debt.
The PRC is "holding" the construction of COVID-19 testing and processing laboratories in Quezon, Albay, Pangasinan, Laguna and in the Bangsamoro region, Gordon told reporters in a text message.
"No payment as yet in spite of their numerous announcements that they will pay," he said.
"How can we test if we do not recover our costs?" he said.
The PRC also needs about $6-8 million (P300-400 million) to pay for COVID-19 test kits and equipment it imported from China, Gordon said.
"At the moment we are almost out of test kits . To replenish we need to be paid," the PRC chair said.
"Because of PhilHealth’s promises to pay, we had chartered a flight to China for tomorrow," he said.
"We will have to cancel the flight tomorrow if no payment is made."
PhilHealth earlier committed to settle its P1-billion debt last week, but the payment was delayed after the state-run insurance firm said it would first seek an opinion from the Department of Justice.
"Philhealth has been perfidious, reckless & they have been in violation of the contract so many times," Gordon said.
"Philhealth should be ashamed of themselves for betraying our vulnerable people," he said.
An internal document from PhilHealth - submitted to the office of its chief executive officer on October described its deal with PRC as "irregular" and "illegal."
PRC was responsible for about 1 million COVID-19 tests, or nearly a fourth of the country's total 3.8 million tests. The organization can no longer accept specimens for PhilHealth funded-tests until the latter settles its P930 million debt.
Corruption in PhilHealth
Whistleblowers earlier accused PhilHealth officials of pocketing some P15 billion in state funds and approving allegedly overpriced projects and reimbursements to supposedly favored hospitals. At the height of the accusations, then PhilHealth chief Ricardo Morales resigned.
Last week, the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) said "dysfunction" in PhilHealth led to losses worth over P153 billion in 5 years.
The PACC in March 2019 first received reports on the "dysfunction of PhilHealth due to failed policies, fraud and other anomalies which led to losses estimated at P153.7 billion in a period of 5 years, from 2013 to 2019," said PACC chairperson Dante Jimenez.
Allegations of corruption against PhilHealth include overpayment, ghost patients, unnecessary procedures, fake receipts and laxity in premium collection, he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier vowed to "look for the money" to settle the government's debt to the PRC.
- With reports from Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News