Sometime during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) offered to provide free swab testing for various individuals who need to be tested. Many of those who benefited from the organization’s free testing are overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), health workers, frontliners, and people who are arriving at our airports and seaports.
Months have passed, and the Red Cross has already tested over one million individuals—which is equal to 26% of the entire population that has already been tested. Many say their free service has been of huge help in curbing the spread of the virus.
However, on October 15, Red Cross announced that they will no longer be providing individuals with free testing. This is because the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), who is covering the expenses for the free testing, has an outstanding balance of P930 million payable to the Red Cross.
“This is a difficult decision for a humanitarian organization such as the PRC to make but it has to be made. The PRC does not have unlimited resources to replenish the testing kits for its laboratories unless PhilHealth, its major creditor, settles its lawful obligations to PRC,” the organization said in its statement. (Read: LIST: The Loans Signed by PH Government for COVID-19 Response)
According to Red Cross, no amount has been paid to them by PhilHealth since September 8, and it has caused them to not be able to procure the necessary equipment needed for the testing. (Read: PH Hospitals Now Offer ‘Drive-Thru Testing’ for Safer Service)
It is said that for the Red Cross to get the testing kits and reagents, they would have to shell out $6 million for each order, which they can no longer afford given the almost a billion-peso debt of PhilHealth. Because of this, OFWs, arriving passengers, frontliners, government workers, and other individuals in need of swab testing will no longer be able to avail of the free testing service.
‘Nasaan Ang PhilHealth Funds?’
This new issue involving Red Cross comes after the fraud controversy that was the talk of the town last August. The fraud scheme in question is the lost P15 billion funds of PhilHealth, which according to a whistleblower was stolen by high-ranking officials of the insurance company.
The whistleblower, ex-PhilHealth Anti-Fraud Legal Officer Thorrsson Montes Keith, said that corruption is widespread in the organization which forced him to resign. He added that the fraudulent transactions made amounting to P15 billion are the “crime of the year.” (Read: LIST: The Government Officials Who Resigned From Their Posts This Year)
This prompted the public to clamor for the involved officials to return the missing funds. The topic “Nasaan Ang PhilHealth Funds” also trended on social media as thousands of concerned citizens have been calling on the government to address the issue immediately.