'Mukhang pera': Duterte blasts PH Red Cross for suspending COVID-19 tests amid PhilHealth debt

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 05 2020 11:25 PM | Updated as of Nov 05 2020 11:41 PM

Arriving OFWs at the NAIA Terminal 1 are assisted by Philippine Coast Guard and Philippine Red Cross personnel for COVID-19 swab tests. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/file

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday criticized the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) after being told that it stopped conducting COVID-19 tests due to the government's P1.1 billion debt.

In a meeting with Cabinet members, Duterte quipped "mukhang pera" or roughly translated as "greedy for money", while Health Secretary Francisco Duque III was discussing the country's COVID-19 figures.

Duterte did not expound in his statement.

The Red Cross, in mid-October, suspended its COVID-19 testing of repatriated Filipinos due to the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation's (PhilHealth) unpaid debt that, at the time, ran close to P1 billion.

On Oct. 27, state health insurer PhilHealth made a partial payment to the PRC worth P500 million for its P1.1 billion debt.

It then paid another P100 million in partial payment Thursday.

The PRC resumed its COVID-19 testing services after the initial partial payment was made.

Sen. Richard Gordon, who chairs the PRC, warned however that the non-government humanitarian organization would halt its coronavirus testing program again should PhilHealth, in the new tests being conducted, fail to pay 3 days after a swab sample is collection.

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The PhilHealth and PRC entered into an agreement in May this year for the latter's massive COVID-19 testing program, charging the government health insurer P3,500 for each test.

Before it halted its testing services, the PRC catered to around 26 percent or 1.15 million of the total coronavirus screenings done in the country.

The Philippines' cumulative total of COVID-19 cases is nearing the 390,000-mark, as of Thursday, of which, 32,773 are considered active.

As of Wednesday, more than 4.6 million individuals in the country have been tested for COVID-19.

Gordon has yet to react to Duterte's statement, as of posting. — With a report from Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News​