MANILA - Embattled state insurer PhilHealth said Wednesday it has enough funds to pay its P1 billion in dues to the Philippine Red Cross for COVID-19 tests— debt that led the organization to halt state-funded testing, leaving thousands of repatriates stranded in Metro Manila.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said he would "look for the money" to settle government's unpaid dues to the non-government organization, which conducted 1 million coronavirus tests, or about a fourth of the Philippines' 3.8 million tests so far.
The state insurer is only awaiting clearance from relevant agencies after recently-appointed president and CEO Dante Gierran ordered a review of its contracts and procurement, spokesperson Rey Balena said.
"May sapat po tayong pondo, bahagi 'yan ng ating COVID-19 response," he told ABS-CBN's Teleradyo.
(We have enough funds to pay the debt, it's included in our COVID-19 response.)
"Ang issue lang po dito ay kailangan lang po, gusto lang po makatiyak ni Atty. Gierran na nasa ayos po ang lahat bago po kami patuloy na magbayad sa Red Cross... Bahagi po 'yan ng due diligence, ng maayos na pamamahala lalo na po sa pondo ng ating mga miyembro."
(The only issue here is Atty. Gierran would like to ensure everything is in order before we continue our payment to Red Cross. It's part of our due diligence, of proper management of our member's funds.)
PRC president Sen. Richard Gordon earlier said PhilHealth should be investigated for its failure to make payments. The agency recently underwent several investigations for corruption, with former and current officials recommended charged for irregularities, including alleged fund misuse.
Red Cross' halt in state-funded testing has slowed down the processing of returning Filipino migrants who require swab tests and negative results before being allowed to travel to their hometowns.
The Philippine Coast Guard said it has switched to manual encoding, while Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said up to 4,000 repatriates are stranded in Metro Manila because of the testing delay.
PhilHealth members can still get tested for COVID-19 as government has tapped other laboratories for the purpose, Balena said, citing the health department's announcement.