Palace justifies RITM budget cut, says it's no longer sole COVID-19 testing hub


Posted at Sep 06 2021 06:21 PM

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Malacañang on Monday said "thousands" of laboratories were running COVID-19 tests, in response to the 2022 budget cut looming over the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), the country's main coronavirus screening hub.

Next year's proposed spending plan could slash P170 million from the RITM budget, even while the coronavirus outbreak continued to rage, reports said. 

"Hindi naman po RITM lang ang nagti-testing... Ang number of laboratories natin is thousands already," said Palace spokesman Harry Roque.

(RITM is not only one testing. The number of our laboratories is in the thousands already.) 

He said private laboratories are undertaking "a huge chunk" of the coronavirus tests. 

"But I'm sure there are other reasons behind this," he said in a press briefing. 

Just last August, National Task Force Against COVID-19 deputy chief implementer Vince Dizon admitted COVID-19 testing remains insufficient. He said state medical insurer PhilHealth needed to pay screening laboratories. 

Vice President Leni Robredo earlier called on pandemic leaders to raise the daily COVID-19 testing to 150,000, among other measures, to achieve government's goal of making Metro Manila's Aug. 6 to 20 lockdown the "last ever."

The Philippines last week crossed 2 million coronavirus infections, among the highest in Asia. The health department on Monday confirmed 22,415 COVID-19 cases, the country's new highest ever single-day tally.