Filipino migrant workers stranded in the country's airports have to pay up to P20,000 for immediate coronavirus tests results, the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) said on Sunday.
PRC chairman Senator Richard Gordon said the non-government organization was allowed to enter the country's international airports in Manila, Clark, and Cebu as overseas Filipino workers have asked the Red Cross to directly facilitate their COVID-19 test.
The Red Cross earlier suspended its COVID-19 testing because the Philippine Health Insurance Corp., (PhilHealth), which was supposed to pay for the tests, had accumulated almost P1 billion in unpaid bills.
“Someone from Washington D.C. texted me and said he or she was charged P10,000. It seems someone there is benefitting from this,” Gordon said in Filipino in an interview on ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
“Another one said, my sister paid P7,000 to get the results in 24 hours. She waited beyond 24 hours and got it only after she expressed her rage… For 12 hours, it costs P10,000, and for 6 hours, it costs P20,000," Gordon said.
About 6,000 repatriates are stranded in Metro Manila because of the testing delay as a result of the halted PRC service, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III earlier said as the Philippine Coast Guard switched to manual encoding.
PhilHealth has said it would pay its debt to the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) on Monday.
“I'm surprised about attorney Gierran because I know him. But now, he seems undecided and scared. I don't know who he's scared of because I know he's brave. Maybe someone is being manipulated,” Gordon said of PhilHealth president Dante A. Gierran, who ordered a review of the agency's partnership with the PRC.
Gierran was recently appointed to replace Ricardo Morales, who resigned at the height of allegations of corruption in the agency.
An inter-agency task force created to investigate alleged anomalies at PhilHealth has filed a criminal complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman against Morales and several other agency officials.
“All I know, Attorney Gierran, if you're listening, is I'm receiving text messages. We were not at the airport. We have just started getting in because many want to transact directly with us because they are being overcharged and are waiting for too long for coronavirus test results,” Gordon said.
PhilHealth and PRC entered into a multi-million peso agreement in May in which the Red Cross was to conduct a massive COVID-19 testing program charging PhilHealth P3,500 for each test.
Last week, the Justice Department cleared the memorandum of agreement between PhilHealth and the Red Cross and the advance payment of P100 million for the COVID-19 tests despite laws mandating reimbursements instead.
“Having been in receipt today of the DOJ legal opinion saying that the PhilHealth-PRC MOA is not subject to Procurement Law, PhilHealth will release payment on Monday, Oct. 26, 2020, subject to completeness of billing requirements submitted by the PRC,” PhilHealth said in a statement Friday night.