DOH, DTI to release price cap of COVID-19 tests by next week

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 06 2020 03:35 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 — The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday said it is likely to release the price ceiling for coronavirus test kits by next week, even after President Rodrigo Duterte's order.

DOH, in a press briefing, said it already met with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) twice this week to discuss the test kits' recommended price range. 

Duterte, through Executive Order No. 118, on Wednesday directed DTI and DOH to set a price ceiling on COVID-19 tests after his Cabinet members and other officials reported some incidents of overpricing. 

“Nakapag-usap po kami ng DTI and we have agreed na kailangan by next week, mayroon na po kaming offer or recommendations for this price range na pinag-aaralan natin sa ngayon,” DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.

(DTI and DOH already met and we have agreed that we need to release our recommended price range for COVID-19 tests by next week. We are still studying the price range for such tests.)

Vergeire said the variety of test kits, laboratory processes, and the indirect costs of running said laboratories were taken into consideration in forming the price range for coronavirus tests. 

She added the health department also used the World Health Organization’s laboratory costing tool to form a science-based approach in formulating the price cap for said tests. 

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Stakeholders, which includes laboratories, manufacturers, and other sectors, will be consulted after the agencies release the proposed cost for COVID-19 tests. 

“We need to consult our stakeholders. HIndi naman puwedeng nagdesisyon lang kami, hindi na namin kinonsulta yung mga laboratoryo at ibat ibang sektor. We need to consult at kailangan namin marinig din from them if they are okay or not okay with the price range we have set,” she said. 

(We just cannot decide without consulting our stakeholders which include laboratories and other sectors. We need to hear their side regarding our recommendation.)

Both DTI and DOH have already come up with the implementation arrangements, she said, and both agencies have been studying extensively all the costing factors before releasing the proposal to the public. 

“Mayroong certain time na ibinigay sa atin para magawa natin lahat ito at makumpleto ang proseso. We all know this is urgent so lahat ng ginawa namin are expedited.” 

(We were allotted a certain time to finish the process. We are expediting this because we know this is urgent.) 

Both the tourism and health departments have called for a price cap on swab tests, as COVID-19 cases continued to be reported while authorities sought to reopen the pandemic-battered economy, allowing travel to tourist spots with a requisite negative coronavirus test.

In September, a senator claimed that the country lost P422 million in potential savings due to the government’s purchase of supposedly overpriced test kits which were bought from private clinics. 

As of Thursday, the country has a total of 389,725 COVID-19 cases. The tally includes 7,409 deaths, 349,543 recoveries, and 32,773 active infections.