Roque cites 'other reasons' for RITM budget cut

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque believed there must be other reasons why the Executive Branch decided to cut the budget of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), the country’s main coronavirus (COVID-19) testing center, for 2022.

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Roque made the statement after it was reported that the RITM faces a P170-million budget cut in the 2022 appropriations despite the ongoing pandemic.

In his press briefing on Monday, September 6, Roque guessed that the RITM funds were cut because it was no longer the sole testing laboratory that can detect the virus.

"Napakarami na po nating nagte-testing (We have many laboratories conducting the testing). We started with RITM as the lone testing but now... We are now doing 72,000 tests a day," he said.

"Pagdating natin sa (In terms of) testing, we are now relying, almost exclusively-- not exclusively naman, but to a very large degree on the private consumer," he added.

The Palace official believed that there must be other reasons behind the decision to cut the budget of the RITM.

"Ang number of laboratories natin (The number of our testing laboratories) is thousands already if I'm not mistaken. I'm sure there are other reasons behind this," Roque said.

"I don't personally know why pero kung testing ang pinag-uusapan (but if we're talking of testing), it's because a huge chunk of our testing is now being undertaken by the private sector," he added.

Based on data from the Department of Health (DOH) website that is said to be updated every five minutes, there are 279 licensed COVID-19 testing laboratories in the entire country.

Lower testing rates

Meanwhile, Roque said that the government is in talks of lowering the price ceiling for reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests.

"Antayin lang po natin kung ano yung magiging (Let's just wait on what will be the new) price ceiling but I believe it will become a lower price ceiling," he said.

In November last year, President Duterte ordered the DOH to put a price cap on COVID-19 testing services.