"Some testing centers charge between P12,000 and P20,000 for the tests."
Senator Richard Gordon said airport authorities must explain why private laboratory testing centers charge exorbitant fees for RT-PCR COVID-19 services they provide at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
Gordon said some of the testing centers charge between P12,000 and P20,000 for the mandatory swab tests they administer on arriving travelers from abroad, including overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and non-OFWs.
This is highway robbery compared to the P3,500 the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) charges the government for each test.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Infectious Diseases (IATF) must investigate this irregularity at the NAIA.
Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) general manager Ed Monreal must explain why the exorbitant RT-PCR testing fees are allowed in all NAIA Terminals 1, 2 and 3.
The mandatory swab test was free of charge for both returning OFWs and non-OFWs at the expense of PhilHealth until the private testing centers came in July.
Since then, unsuspecting travelers are reportedly lured by agents or staff of the testing centers with the promise they will get their swab test results in hours unlike the testing done by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) which takes three to five days for the test results can be released.
Quite a number of travelers are constrained to take the offer, especially OFWs on a few weeks’ vacation, anxious to go home to their families instead of staying in a hotel for quarantine for one week or more awaiting for their swab test result.
"Napipilitan na lang ang mga OFW kumagat sa patalim kasi gusto nila makapiling ang mga pamilya nila kaysa magtagal sa quarantine," said Gordon.
The Overseas Workers Welfare Authority (OWWA) pays for the hotel accommodation of OFWs.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello said he is intrigued why such private testing firms were allowed to operate inside the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) in partnership with the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has administered the COVID-19 testing since the IATF mandated the RT-PCR testing.
Meanwhile, the PRC is poised to resume processing the swab tests on OFWs as PhilHealth promised to pay the PRC its nearly P1-billion obligation.
If not for the PRC-PhilHealth impasse, this racket on swab test at the NAIA terminals would not have been exposed and both OFWs and non-OFWs would continue to be victimized by this highway robbery.
Again, why are the MIAA authorities allowing this racket?