Duterte wants probe into ‘overpriced’ test kits, equipment
CEBU, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte wants a probe into alleged overpriced COVID-19 equipment, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque Friday.
Roque said the president is “bothered” by the supposed discrepancy in prices of COVID-19 testing kit bought by the private sector, against the purchase of the government.
“He wants answers… and investigation,” Roque added.
“He (Duterte), like the rest of the public, does not understand why the discrepancy (in prices) is that wide,” the presidential spokesman also said.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Thursday flagged the Department of Health’s purchase of nucleic acid extraction machines which are used to test for COVID-19 from American manufacturer Kingfisher for P4 million while the private sector purchased machines from Chinese firm Sansure for less than half the cost at P1.75 million.
He also questioned DOH’s spending of $32 on each swabbing kit when they can be bought from Chinese firms for $12 per kit.
Private groups can purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) for P1,079 apiece, or P900 less than what the government pays.
Roque earlier said he would refer the matter to Undersecretary Jesus Melchor Quitain of the Office of the Special Assistant to the President, as he cited “conflict of interest” due to the pendency of cases that he, as a private lawyer, filed against the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).
Overpriced COVID-19 testing
Sen. Franklin Drilon earlier questioned the COVID-19 test package priced at P8,150 saying it was overpriced.
In a statement Friday, Drilon welcomed the move of PhilHealth to cut the price of its COVID-19 test package by half, which now costs P4,210 according to the senator.
The senator, however, insisted that PhilHealth could still set the price at P3,500, which is the amount the Philippine Red Cross set for the test, or even lower.
“If COVID-19 tests could be done for as low as P3,500 as proven by Red Cross, which emerged as the lead testing center for COVID-19, then there is no justification for higher rates set by PhilHealth,” he said in a statement, Friday.
“This is a victory for better governance and anticorruption drive. Our triumph has proven that our collective voice is stronger than ever. It is critical to be more vigilant against corrupt practices during the time of a pandemic,” Drilon also said.
PhilHealth president Ricardo Morales said the state insurer will review its existing benefit package for COVID-19 patients and will release new and lower rates next week. Philstar.com (FREEMAN)