The government is hopeful that the Philippine Red Cross will resume the state-funded coronavirus testing given the forthcoming partial payment of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation’s (PhilHealth) debt this week or next week, a Palace official said Wednesday.

According to presidential spokesman Harry Roque, the “controversy should be over” since President Duterte himself committed to settle the P930-million obligation of PhilHealth to the Red Cross.

roque2 - Palace hopeful of PRC resumption of COVID-19 testing
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque

Roque had earlier said the government intends to pay half of the PhilHealth obligation to the Red Cross as soon as possible and settle the remaining balance within a reasonable time. 

“The President has already committed to PhilHealth that it will be paid and so I think it will be paid if not this week, then next week at the latest,” he said over CNN Philippines. 

“Because with the undertaking to pay coming no less from the President last Monday, I  believe Senator (Richard) Gordon should no longer have any doubts that it will be paid. I think that assurance should be enough for the Red Cross to resume its testing,” he added.

Asked if Red Cross agreed with the government’s payment scheme, Roque said:  “I believe they did and I believe that there’s now an understanding between the government and Red Cross that the services will continue.”

Roque said the government’s planned 50 percent debt payment to Red Cross is “substantial” since it recognized the humanitarian group cannot continue to function unless it meets its cash requirements.

“That’s why we give utmost priority to settling at least 50 percent because it is to the interest of both Red Cross and the country that we continue our PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing since the Red Cross is responsible for 25 percent of all our testings,” he said.

Last week, Red Cross decided to halt the coronavirus tests chargeable to PhilHealth after it failed to settle its outstanding balance.  President Duterte, in his public address last Monday, has vowed to find funds to settle PhilHealth’s debt.

Roque admitted that he is unaware why PhilHealth was unable to pay its obligation to PhilHealth. He could only surmise that PhillHealth was making an “accounting reconciliation” of its obligations to the Red Cross.

“Maybe it just took time for paperwork to be processed in PhilHealth because of the fact PhilHealth has been under scrutiny as well. I’m sure this is part of the reason but as I said, the controversy should be over because the commitment to pay has come no less from the President himself,” he said.

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