Duterte promises to settle PhilHealth’s multi-million debt to Philippine Red Cross

Marje Pelayo   •   October 20, 2020   •   226

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte assures the public that the government will settle what it owes to the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing. 

The President said the government will present its plan to the Commission on Audit (COA) and will look for funds through the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Itong Red Cross, wag ka mag-aalala, babayaran ito (To the Red Cross, don’t you worry. You will get paid). We’re just looking for a way to present the solution to COA pati sa Budget. Do not worry we will pay. It will take time but we will pay, we will look for the money,” he said during his public address, Monday evening (October 19).

According to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, the government hopes to settle at least 50 percent of more than P930 million owed to PRC as soon as possible.

“We hope to settle at least 50% of that amount as soon as possible. And the rest also within reasonable time,” he said.

The arrears came from expenses incurred by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to the PRC in relation to the Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction or RT-PCR testing for coronavirus infection.

The President reiterated that the government’s priorities amid the pandemic are providing medical attention to the Filipinos and procuring medical equipment.

He also believes that the PRC through its chairman Senator Richard Gordon will understand the government’s position on the matter.

“What I’m really trying to say is we will pay. Sabi ko kay Senator Gordon, because he heads the Red Cross, na babayaran ko ito,” the President said. 

Nonetheless, the government has assured the public that the COVID-19 testing in the country will not be affected by the debts owed to the PRC.

Specimens from returning overseas Filipino workers as well as from frontliners which used to be accommodated by the PRC will now be sent to more than 100 accredited COVID-19 testing laboratories in the country for processing. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Duterte to consider AFP stand against holiday ceasefire with Reds – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   December 3, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte will consider the position of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) against declaring a ceasefire with communist rebels this holiday season, Malacañang said Thursday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte normally “gives a lot of weight” on the recommendations of the military.

“Pakikinggan po ‘yan, but ultimately it’s only the President who will decide,” he said during a press briefing.

AFP spokesperson Major General Edgard Arevalo earlier said the military will not recommend a holiday truce with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, due to the rebels’ “incapacity for sincerity.”

“This was the AFP’s painful experience where the communist terrorist group reneged from their own ceasefire declaration by attacking and killing soldiers on humanitarian and peace and development missions,” Arevalo said.

“During the incumbency of a truce, these terrorists continued their extortion activities and committed crimes of murder, arson, and the likes,” he added.

Arevalo, however, said that the AFP would support whatever the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte will be despite their position on the matter.

Last year, the government and the CPP-NPA both declared a truce during the holiday season, from December 23, 2019 to January 7, 2020. – RRD (with details from Correspondents Rosalie Coz and Lea Ylagan)

Local airlines to increase number of flights this holiday season

Aileen Cerrudo   •   December 3, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Local airlines are preparing to add more flights as more passengers are expected to travel this holiday season just as quarantine restrictions ease.

Philippine Airlines (PAL) spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said the easing of quarantine restrictions can help the airline industry recover from the effects of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“The good news is the Balikbayan Program. This is the easing of travel requirements for balikbayans to entice them to return to the Philippines,” she said.

Villaluna said they are also coordinating with local government units to make sure the minimum health standards are still being implemented.

Local airlines have already partnered with private laboratories for more affordable and faster swab testing of passengers. For PAL and Air Asia, the RT-PCR testing in their accredited diagnostic lab costs P4,000.

Meanwhile, Cebu Pacific launched a “test before boarding” policy which requires passengers to undergo an antigen testing before boarding. The testing in Cebu Pacific is free from December 3 to December 14 but it is only exclusive to passengers en route to General Santos City.

“This is an initiative where we are closely working with the LGU in coming up with this process wherein passengers are required to take an antigen test no more than five hours before their departure time and then the results will come out in 30 minutes,” according to Candice Iyog, vice president for Marketing and Customer Experience of Cebu Pacific.

Local airlines advise passengers to refer to their respective websites for the essential requirements before boarding their flights. AAC (with reports from Joan Nano)

Duterte to attend virtual UN General Assembly on COVID-19

Robie de Guzman   •   December 3, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte is set to participate in the 31st Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic from December 3 to 4, Malacañang said Thursday.

The Palace said Duterte is expected to deliver the Philippine Statement on December 3, where he will further amplify his call for global solidarity in addressing the challenges posed by the COVID-19.

The president is also expected to raise universal access to the anti-COVID-19 technologies, as well as the need for global efforts to ensure the availability of safe and effective vaccines to peoples of developing nations.

During the 75th UNGA session last September, Duterte also said that COVID-19 vaccines “must not be denied nor withheld,” and that “it should be made available to all, rich and poor nations alike, as a matter of policy.” – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

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