Coast Guard says Red Cross pullout from COVID testing anticipated, but still surprising

Rose Carmelle Lacuata, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 20 2020 07:41 PM | Updated as of Oct 20 2020 11:23 PM

A member of the Philippine Coast Guard guides Filipino Contract Workers (OFW) as they arrive from Hong Kong at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Paranaque City, Metro Manila, Philippines on Wednesday. May 13, 2020. Basilio H. Sepe, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) admitted Tuesday it was surprised when the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) halted its COVID-19 testing services due to PhilHealth's P1 billion debt, even when it had anticipated it to happen.

"Noong nakaraan, may mga na-anticipate kaming ganito eh, pero nabayaran kaagad. Ito na 'yung pangalawa. Medyo nabigla kami. Hindi namin alam na aabot pa ulit na talagang mangyari na magkakaroon ng impasse dito sa pagbabayad ng PhilHealth sa Red Cross," Commo. Armando Balilo, PCG spokesman, told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.

(In the past, we anticipated this situation, but the payment was promptly made. This is the second time. We were surprised. We didn't expect that the payment between PhilHealth and Philippine Red Cross would reach an impasse.)

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The PCG is part of the government's Sub-Task Group for the Repatriation of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) which is tasked to facilitate and implement the mandatory 14-day quarantine period of all repatriated OFWs, both land-based and sea-based.

It has partnered with the PRC in testing returning OFWs.

Last week, the PRC halted its COVID-19 testing funded by state medical insurer PhilHealth due to the latter's failure to settle its "ever-increasing" outstanding balance that currently stands at P930 million.

The PRC has done over 1 million coronavirus tests, or about a fourth of the Philippines' 3.8 million tests so far, the organization had said.

After the PRC stopped its services, OFWs now have to wait up to 5 days before getting their coronavirus test results, because their samples would have to be brought to 12 accredited hospitals, Balilo said.

With the involvement of the PRC before, the OFWs could get their results overnight.

In his public address Monday night, President Rodrigo Duterte said he would "look for the money" to settle the government's debt to the PRC.