MIAA limits NAIA arrivals anew after PRC stops COVID-19 swab testing

Marje Pelayo   •   October 22, 2020   •   201

MANILA, Philippines – The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) has once again cut down the number of arrivals at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) as a consequence of the Philippine Red Cross’ decision to stop its swab testing service to returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Thousands of repatriated OFWs remain in quarantine facilities in Metro Manila, desperately waiting for the results of their swab tests.

One of them is Harlene Gariando who used to work as a household worker in Singapore but after a conflict with her employer, she decided to return home on October 18.

It has been four days since she arrived but until today, she is not certain as to when she will be able to get her swab test result.

Madali na po sana ang resulta para kami pong mga naghihintay dito ay makauwi na rin sa aming mga mahal sa buhay [We hope the result would come out soon so we could go home to our families],” she said.

Sana malaman po kaagad ng maaga kasi para hindi rin po nagaalala yung mga mahal namin sa buhay rin po [The results should be made available soon so our families will not worry],” she added.

MIAA General Manager Eddie Monreal said they have to minimize the number of arrivals once again to make sure that the government’s One-Stop-Shop will be able to accommodate all returning OFWs.

“Ang challenge po ay nasa One Stop Shop being manned by Coast Guard and pagdating nung mga kababayan natin limitado po ang kapasidad ngayon sa pagte-test [The challenge now is with the One-Stop-Shop being manned by the Coast Guard because the swab testing at present is limited as compared to the arriving OFWs],” Monreal said.

“As far as the airport is concern, kami po sa paliparan wala po kaming nakikitang problema except for those reduction po na maapektuhan ang pagparating ng ating mga kababayan [As far as the airport is concerned, we don’t have any problem except for the arriving OFWs who will be affected by the reduction of flights],” he added.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), meanwhile, is trying to replicate the process of the PRC when it comes to swab testing, one is to allow online registration prior to the OFWs return flight.

Kasi iyong E-CIF di ba bago pa pumunta dito sa Pilipinas, three days before nirerequire na natin noon in coordination with the Red Cross na magpirma na nung CIF [The process with E-CIF, three days before they arrive in the Philippines they are required to sign a CIF with Red Cross],” explained Commodore Armand Balilo, PCG’s Spokesperson.

Para pagdating dito dere-derecho ang pila. Pupunta lang sa counter ng Coast Guard tapos isa-swab [So when they arrive, they just fall in line. They just go straight to the Coast Guard’s counter and there they will be swabbed],” he added.

At present, the PCG has partnered with 12 government hospitals to where the specimens of OFW are forwarded.

The agency also employed more IT personnel to speed up the encoding of data. 

PCG explained that OFWs may request to speed up the processing of their swab tests. They may either pay P3,5000 to the PRC or they may prefer to have their swab test taken in private hospitals but they have to pay as much as P10,000 for it.

The PCG is hoping that the PRC will resume its service the soonest especially with the expected surge of returning OFWs by the end of the year. MNP (with reports from Joan Nano)

Red Cross resumes COVID-19 testing after PhilHealth settles P500-M partial payment

Marje Pelayo   •   October 28, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) resumed its coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing services Tuesday evening (October 27) after the embattled Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) settled a partial payment of P500-million for its P1.1-billion debt.

In an online press briefing, PRC Chairman Senator Richard Gordon said he already requested all PRC laboratories, including the one at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), to resume the provision of swab testing services to PhilHealth.

Gordon’s announcement was made hours after the state insurer paid half of its arrears.

“So we are ready to test all the people that we have not tested. Iyong mga nasa hotel ngayon, padala nila, tetestingin namin agad iyan (Those staying in hotels, send them to us and we will test them),” Gordon said.

“We are going to have the testing again tonight at the Manila international airport muna, then tomorrow (Wednesday) regular testing will be conducted in full,” he added.

The Senator stressed, however, that though they did not set any deadline for PhilHealth to settle the remaining balance, they will no longer allow any repeat of the financial issues with the agency.

Thus, he said, they will immediately bill the government for future tests.

In a statement, PhiHealth President and CEO Atty. Dante Gierran assured they will expedite the processing of the remaining balance subject to strict compliance with government accounting rules and regulations.

“PhilHealth takes exception to the insinuation that it is reckless and is playing on people’s lives,” he said.

“Its prudence in taking charge of its members’ hard-earned contributions is central to the state health insurer. Its exercise of judiciousness is to protect the people and their funds,” he added.

PhilHealth maintained that it recognizes and assures the accredited laboratories conducting the current OFW RT-PCR tests that it will fast track the processing of its payments upon submission of complete documentary requirements.

PhilHealth pays half of its P1.1 billion debt to PRC

Robie de Guzman   •   October 27, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) on Tuesday said it has already paid half of its P1 billion debt to the Philippine Red Cross for the cost of COVID-19 tests it conducted.

In a statement, PhilHealth said it has released on Tuesday P500 million as partial payment to the Red Cross.

It also assured to expedite the processing of the remaining balance following strict compliance to government accounting rules and regulations.

The agency’s announcement came after PRC chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Senator Richard Gordon lashed out at PhilHealth over its failure to release any payment despite its previous commitment to do so on Monday.

The PRC last week stopped the conduct of the PhilHealth-covered COVID-19 testing due to the agency’s outstanding balances.

Gordon earlier said the state insurer’s delayed payment has put on hold the PRC’s supposed flight to China for the procurement of COVID-19 test kits and other equipment.

The senator also called PhilHealth “very reckless,” and “very irresponsible” for failing to settle its debts and for giving excuses on such a serious and critical matter.

But PhilHealth president and CEO Dante Gierran said the agency is only exercising its mandate to protect their members and their funds.

“PhilHealth takes exception to the insinuation that it is reckless and is playing on people’s lives. Its prudence in taking charge of its members’ hard-earned contributions is central to the state health insurer,” Gierran said in a statement.

“Its exercise of judiciousness is to protect the people and their funds,” he added.

Gierran also assured accredited laboratories conducting the current RT-PCR tests for overseas Filipino workers that the state insurer will expedite the processing of its payments “upon submission of complete documentary requirements.”

PhilHealth vows to pay Philippine Red Cross in full on October 26

Marje Pelayo   •   October 26, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) will heed the legal opinion of the Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding its memorandum of agreement with the Philippine Red Cross (PRC). 

After confirming that the agreement is not subject to Procurement Law, the state insurer decided to pay the PRC in full on Monday (October 26).

But the agency insisted that it will only pay the PRC based on the complete billing requirements that it will provide and in accordance with regulation imposed by the Commission on Audit (COA) over the amount due.

The state insurer owes PRC P930 million, hence why the latter suspended its swab testing services for coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

PhilHealth said it has enough funds to pay its obligation to the PRC and stressed that once it settles the full amount, PRC has to immediately resume its swab testing service.

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

PRC chairman Senator Richard Gordon on the other hand maintained that PRC will not resume its service until the state insurer pays in full for fear that PRC’s cash reserve would be depleted and bankrupt the humanitarian organization if PhilHealth fails to pay immediately. MNP (with reports from Mon Jocson)

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