Officials deny OFWs 'overcharged' up to P20,000 in airport swab testing for COVID-19

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 04 2020 07:00 PM

Arriving OFWs at the NAIA Terminal 1 undergo health protocols and fill out documents while being assisted by Philippine Coast Guard personnel before getting clearance from the Philippine Red Cross to get swab tests on October 28, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — Several transport officials on Wednesday denied returning migrant workers were overcharged for the coronavirus tests they were required to take upon their arrival in the country's airports.

"I can categorically say na hindi po ina-usher ang mga pasehero para pumunta sa mga private lab test... Hindi po totoo yung P20,000 na charge," said Transport Undersecretary Raul del Rosario during a House transportation panel probe. 

(The allegation about P20,000 charge is not true.)

Philippine Red Cross (PRC) chairman Sen. Richard Gordon last month claimed some overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) stranded in the airports were forced to cough up P20,000 to expedite their COVID-19 testing.

The alleged overcharging incidents happened when PRC pulled out its coronavirus testing service due to PhilHealth's nearly P1 billion unpaid dues.

Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) general manager Ed Monreal also told lawmakers Wednesday he was not aware of such incidents. 

"Upon arrival of the passengers, meron po silang briefing na kina-conduct ng PCG (Philippine Coast Guard). Sa pagdating, i-eskplika (explain) sa kanila kung ano dapat gawin. Then after the completion, ang mga pasahero na po ang nagpupunta sa kan-kanilang swabbing station," Monreal said.

(Upon arrival of the passengers, they go through a briefing being conducted by the PCG. When they arrive, they are told what they should do. Then, after completion, the passengers go to their respective swabbing stations.)

"Sa private [labs] po kasi, separate ang bayad. Sila po ang may choice para pumunta sa swabbing facility, which, at some times, sila na ho ang personal na nakikipag-ayos," Monreal added.

(Payment in private laboratories is separate. It's their choice which swabbing facility they will go to. It's a personal arrangement.)

The airport official insisted that returning OFWs are not charged by government for coronavirus testing, but other balikbayans can opt to be tested by private facilities.

"Ang lahat po OFWs simula't sapul, even nung mag-pullout ang Red Cross, ay libre. Yun pong nagbabayad ay yung mga non-OFWs. Sila po ang pumupunta sa private laboratories." 

(All OFWs, from the start, and even when the Red Cross pulled out, were free of charge. Those who are paying are non-OFWs. They are the one who go to private laboratories.)

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—Reports from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News