'Lack of confidence' in COVID-19 plan, PhilHealth 'corruption' deter PH economic recovery: senators

Katrina Domingo, Robert Mano and Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 06 2020 02:45 PM | Updated as of Aug 06 2020 02:46 PM

Health workers during a meeting at the COVID-19 triage tent at the Sta. Ana Hospital in Manila on April 14, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File Photo

MANILA - Several senators on Thursday said the public's "lack of confidence" in the government's strategy against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and corruption allegations in the state-run health insurance firm may impede the Philippines' economic recovery.

The government must "get [its] act together in the next 2 weeks" to show the public that the Philippines "can beat" the global pandemic that plunged economies worldwide, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said in a statement.

"So far, the people, consumers, workers, investors think government is loosing the battle. There is a lack of confidence," Recto said.

"I expect it will be hard for people to get back to work unless government can prove that it can beat the virus," he said.

The Phillippines plunged into recession after it registered its gross domestic product at -16.5 percent in the second quarter of 2020.

The Philippines may "continue to benefit from our strong economic fundamentals" while a COVID-19 vaccine has yet to be developed, but leakages in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp should be plugged, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has placed the government in a very precarious situation as in a tightrope-like balancing act between the health and economic issues which presents a no win-all situation," Lacson said.

"That is why it is revolting to discover so much unabated corruption in PhilHealth involving billions that could have been put into good use in adequately addressing at least the issue of health," he said.

Senate Committee on Finance chair Sen. Sonny Angara said Congress is ready to fund the executive branch's "recovery strategy," but urged officials not to lose the funds to questionable government transactions.

"Wag lang sana nilang payagang waldasin ng PhilHealth ang pinaghirapang pera ni Juan Dela Cruz," he said in a separate statement.

(I hope they don't waste the hard-earned money of Filipinos.)

A Senate inquiry earlier found that PhilHealth - mandated to cover COVID-19 tests and other medical fees of Filipinos - is on the verge of bankruptcy after the insurance firm's officials approved the purchase of "grossly overpriced" items.

Documents also showed PhilHealth prioritized the disbursement of funds to regional hospitals not catering to COVID-19 cases, while some facilities overwhelmed with virus-stricken patients have yet to receive reimbursements from the insurance agency.

The Senate is expected to call a second hearing to further look into alleged irregularities in the state-run insurance agency.