Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri on Friday said he advised the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) to be a “bit more patient” in waiting for the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to fully settle its debts.
Zubiri, PRC vice chairman, said members of the PRC Board of Governors had a meeting Thursday wherein they discussed the PhilHeath’s balance for the humanitarian organization’s conduct of COVID-19 testing for the government.
The PhilHealth on Tuesday paid the PRC some P500 million in partial payment of its debt of over P1 billion.
“Malaking bagay po na nagbayad na po ng kalahati ang PhilHealth (It’s a huge thing that PhilHealth already paid half of its debt)…’Yong kakulangan, binanggit ko nga sa Red Cross Board na ganon talaga ang gobyerno, matagal magbayad (About the balance, I told the Red Cross Board that that’s how the government is, that it always takes time to pay). The procurement law and other laws of the Philippine government, [that it] has to show transparency, accountability, really make it very difficult for government agencies to pay on time,” Zubiri told reporters in an online interview.
“So I suggested na let’s be a bit more patient. Anyway, nangako na ‘yong Pangulo na babayaran (the President already promised that it will be paid),” he added.
Still, Zubiri said he understands the frustration of PRC chairman and Senator Richard Gordon about the delay in the state insurer’s payment.
“You have to remember that the Red Cross is a donor organization, donation lang po ang nagbibigay-buhay sa aming organization. It’s a non-stock, non-profit organization. Lalong-lalo na ngayon nagkakaroon po ng napakaraming bagyo, ang utang na P1 billion ay talagang nakakapilay sa aming operations dahil hindi na po sila makakalabas sa aming tungkulin bilang search and rescue and relief operations na (Especially now that it’s rainy season, the P1 billion debt really affects our relief and rescue operations, which is the) core advocacy of the Red Cross,” he said.
“Siguro nakikita niya na (Maybe Gordon sees that since) we are now eating into the donation funds of the Red Cross, ay pwedeng mapilay ang operations ng Red Cross (our operations might be affected).”
“I’m sure the Red Cross doesn’t want to stop its operations. I’m sure the Red Cross, being a humanitarian organization, gustong pong tumulong (really wanted to help). ‘Yon nga lang limitado ang aming pondo dahil nga donations lang ang inaasa[han] namin (But our funds are limited because we only rely on donations). So the sooner that they pay, the better, for the continued operations of the testing of COVID-19 patients,” he added.
Zubiri said the PRC Board gave Gordon the freehand to set deadlines and to negotiate with the PhilHealth.
On Wednesday, Gordon said the PhilHealth should pay its remaining balance of P561 million within three days to prevent its debt from ballooning anew.