The government should provide free COVID-19 swab testing for all persons stranded in transport terminals, airports and seaports, as well as public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers, to prevent the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) from again spreading out in regions.
Ako Bicol Party-list Representative Alfredo Garbin Jr. issued the appeal as he cited a report from the Department of Transportation (DOTr) that nearly 80 passengers of colorum vehicles headed to Bicol Region from Metro Manila tested positive for COVID-19.
“Ganyan ang resulta kapag walang libreng testing, magpapalusot ang marami. Pero kung libre naman ang testing, lahat ‘yan kusang-loob na magpapa-test (That is the result of the lack of free testing, excuses will be made. But if tests are free, all of them will willingly get tested),” Garbin said in his statement.
The congressman said the government could make use of its revenues from offshore gaming operations and other collections by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) for the provision of free reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests to PUV drivers and passengers.
“POGO operations have continued despite the different community quarantines imposed last year and this year,” Garbin noted.
“That should mean revenues for Pagcor and with that income, Pagcor should be able to subsidize 100 percent the cost of RT-PCR testing in the transport sector starting with the vehicles with provincial routes to reduce the spread of COVID to the provinces,” he added.
“Recalling the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte that Pagcor will be focused more on funding public health programs, I appeal to Malacañang, the Department of Finance, and the Department of Transportation to work with Pagcor to channel some of their gambling revenues toward provision of free RT-PCR COVID testing to all persons stranded at the seaports, airports, and transport terminals,” Garbin asked.
Aside from Pagcor funds, he said allocations for Pantawid Pasada, or the fuel subsidy program of the government, may also be used to test jeepney and bus drivers and conductors.
“Testing and vaccinating them would effectively help suppress the spread of COVID[-19-],” Garbin said.