What’s taking long to pay Red Cross for COVID-19 tests? Palace says its 'accounting reconciliation'

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 21 2020 11:49 AM

Government to pay at least half its due this week or next

Residents line up during the cash assistance program of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) at the Dr. Juan G. Nolasco Highschool in Tondo, Manila on July 3, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — Authorities need to complete an "accounting reconciliation" before PhilHealth settles its P930-million debt to the Philippine Red Cross, Malacañang said Wednesday, nearly a week since the organization halted state-funded COVID-19 tests.

The PRC, which is responsible for about a quarter of the country's 4.1 million COVID-19 tests, is charging PhilHealth P3,500 for every test.

However, Red Cross "is a beneficiary of both donated machines and donated testing kits, in addition to those they purchased using funds also from the government," said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.

"PhilHealth should not pay the same grade for all PCR tests undertaken… There’s a price differential if the machine being used by the testing facility is donated and there’s also a price differential if the testing kits being used were donated," he told CNN Philippines.

"It’s really a matter of accounting reconciliation. It is not as simple as paying P3,500 for every test undertaken. We have to differentiate still between those tests conducted using machines and testing kits paid for by the Red Cross, and those using donated machines and testing kits," he added.

The Red Cross testing halt has slowed down the processing of repatriated Filipino migrant workers, who are required to secure a negative swab test before they are allowed to go to their hometowns. Some 4,000 OFWs are stuck in Metro Manila, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said Tuesday.

The government will pay at least half of its debt to Red Cross "if not this week then next week," said Roque.

Asked if the PRC agreed to this arrangement, Roque said he believed "they did."

However, he said he had "no personal knowledge" on whether or not PRC would resume its testing once half of the dues has been settled.

"But what I’m saying is the President has committed to pay. I don’t think there’s any reason for the Red Cross to doubt that the President is committed to pay and because of this, I believe the testing should continue," he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said he would "look for money" to pay PhilHealth.

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