NAIA One-Stop-Shop denies forcing OFWs to pricey COVID-19 swab test providers

Marje Pelayo   •   October 27, 2020   •   369

MANILA, Philippines – The management of the One-Stop-Shop at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) has denied allegations that it is forcing overseas Filipino workers (OFW) to take coronavirus swab testing in private testing centers to earn extra. 

In a statement, the NAIA One-Stop-Shop maintained that it is not collecting any fee from any OFW for the swab test since the procedure is being shouldered by the government.

“Ito ay bilang pagbibigay-linaw sa mga alegasyon na kumakalat ngayon sa mga social media sites na pinipilit umano ang mga overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) na tangkilikin o gumamit ng pribadong RT-PCR test providers sa NAIA, upang magbayad ng mas mahal,” the statement read.

[This is to clarify against allegations circulating on social media sites that overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are being forced to take private RT-PCR test providers in NAIA and pay a higher price.]

“Hindi po ito totoo [This is not true],” it read further.

The Shop management explained that they only allow two private testing laboratories for non-OFWs. First is Detoxicare which is a partner of Philippine Airlines (PAL) and the PH Airport Diagnostic Laboratory that is in partnership with the Philippine Airport Ground Support Solutions Inc. (PAGSS).

The said laboratories have been operating in NAIA since July 27 in accordance with an agreement signed with the Task Group on the Management of Returning OFWs.

Under the agreement, the two laboratories may charge P4,000 for an RT-PCR test which results can be released within 48 hours.

But the agreement also states that in the event of emergency cases like death of a family member or emergency medical condition that requires immediate release of results, an OFW may choose to request to speed up the process but with additional fee and a clearance from the Overseas Worker Welfare Administration (OWWA).

For his part, Philippine Red Cross (PRC) Chairman Senator Richard Gordon insists that the government should investigate the alleged irregularities in swab testing at NAIA.

He alleged that the private laboratories in NAIA are charging P12,000 to P20,000 for each swab test.

“Nakikita ninyo ang inconvenience na ginagawa nitong raket na ito. Hindi makauwi kaagad. Maghihintay sa hotel, gastos. Tapos meron silang [Now you see the inconvenience causing this scheme. (OFWs) cannot go home yet so they have to stay in hotels, they spend money there. This is a] ladderized type of charging. You’re taking advantage of the misery of other people,” Gordon said.

Meanwhile, the national government is coordinating with other testing laboratories that offer lower prices of swab tests which Malacanang eyes to service swab testing in airports and seaports.

“Kakausapin po namin ngayon ang mga mas mababang sinisingil, [We will coordinate with the (laboratories) charging lower amount,]” said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.

“Baka dapat sila ang manguna sa aiport at sa pantalan na mas mababa nga ang pwedeng bayaran ng ating mga kababayan. Mga  P1,750 hanggang P2,000 lang po ang sinisingil ng mga testing labs na ito [They can be the ones to front in airports and seaports and offer lower service fee to our kababayans. These laboratories charge only P1,750 or P2,000 per test],” he added.

These testing laboratories include the National Kidney Transplant Institute (NKTI), the Philippine Children’s Hospital, the Lung Center of the Philippines and Perpetual Help Hospital. MNP (with reports from Joan Nano)

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)

Unemployment rate in October 2020 eases to 8.7% —PSA

Aileen Cerrudo   •   December 3, 2020

The unemployment rate in October 2020 eases to 8.7%, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

From April 2020, with a 17.6% unemployment rate, the number of unemployed Filipinos continued to drop to 10% in July and 8.7% in October. This is equivalent to 3.8 million Filipinos, 15 years old and above, who are unemployed.

With several establishments reopening after strict lockdowns due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), several Filipinos were able to find jobs during the last quarter of the year.

Meanwhile, the underemployment rate also droppedd to 14.4% this October, compared to 17.3%t last July.

The PSA said the economy is gradually recovering as lockdowns continue to ease. -AAC

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