President Duterte ordered Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to find ways to provide free COVID-19 tests to Filipinos, emphasizing how important testing is in the battle against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
In his public address aired Monday night, President Duterte said he realized that testing is important in containing the spread of the disease but the problem is it is very expensive.
“Alam mo ang importante pala, sa totoo lang (You know, what’s really important), and I realize now, it’s the testing,” he said.
“Kasi mahal (It’s expensive), I’m trying to figure out a cheaper way of doing it and I will discuss it with the Secretary of Health and [Vaccine Czar] General [Carlito] Galvez, how to come up with a cheaper swabbing and testing kasi magbayad ka mahal lalo na sa airport (because you will have to pay a lot for it especially in airports),” he added.
Duterte asked Duque to look for ways how the government can undertake the testing without the help of private laboratories.
“Is there a way that we can spend for all of this testing? That it is actually, to me, the sacred duty of government to protect its citizens,” he said.
“Tingnan ko kung may pera at magbili na lang tayo (I will find out if we have the money to buy the test kits) and in all government hospitals or in health centers, maibigay natin libre (we can give it for free). Free of charge,” he added.
“Target the first or second quarter if you can have a program where I can review and look for the money,” he added.
According to the President, limiting the spread of the disease would mean that the government will really have to step up. However, testing 60 million Filipinos will not be an easy task.
“If we are to really avoid and limit the virus, the government itself must provide for the curative and palliative or whatever preventive, and one of those is really the swabbing para malaman ka (so we can determine it),” he said.
“You’re targeting 60 million Filipinos to be vaccinated. Okay. That’s no easy job. That is not a walk in the park and it will transcend maybe the whole of next year, 2021,” he added.
Last month, President Duterte issued an executive order directing the departments of Health (DOH) and Trade and Industry (DTI) to place a price cap on COVID-19 tests.
Under the joint order of the two agencies, private laboratories can only charge patients up to P5,000 while the price cap for public laboratories is P3,800.