State insurer Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) should pay the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) the balance of its debt for COVID-19 testing within three days, the humanitarian organization’s chairman, Sen. Richard Gordon, demanded on Wednesday.
PhilHealth paid P500 million to the PRC on Tuesday evening, about half of its P1.1-billion bill.
The remaining P561 million amounts to 160,475 tests, Gordon said.
“The debt is due and demandable. The agreement says upon demand by the Red Cross of payment, when we submit the receipts and all the things that go with this such as the records, pictures and results, they should pay in three days,” Gordon said during an interview on ANC’s Headstart.
“Yes, they should do that,” Gordon said, when asked if this meant PhilHealth should pay the remaining balance within three days,.
PRC temporarily stopped its PhilHealth-funded COVID-19 testing earlier October after the unpaid bill reached P930 million.
Operations at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport resumed Tuesday night.
The other PRC laboratories reopened on Wednesday.
Gordon was puzzled why PhilHealth chief Dante Gierran did not pay the whole amount.
“They are aware of the contract and he said he’s going to pay it. I don’t know why he did not pay the whole amount,” Gordon said, referring to Gierran.
Gordon said Gierran had initially “promised” to pay the full bill after speaking with Executive Sec. Salvador Medialdea, COVID-19 testing czar Sec. Vince Dizon, and Sen. Christopher Go, but he later changed his statement.
“It’s hard to talk with them. If they are not serious we are deadly serious,” Gordon said.
“They are responsible for deaths that will happen, they are responsible if there’s a surge right now—there could be a surge in testing of positives. I hope it doesn’t happen. I pray it doesn’t happen…This country cannot afford to have another lockdown,” he added.
Gordon said he suspected Gierran had been “so afraid” to make his moves as PhilHealth chairman due to the “sordid” record of PhilHealth.
“You cannot play Russian roulette and you cannot put a man there who is afraid to make decisions. If he is afraid, give it to somebody else,” he said.
Gierran, former Director of the National Bureau of Investigation, took over the PhilHealth leadership after its former president, Ricardo Morales, resigned at the height of corruption allegations against agencies.
Gordon said the PRC was preparing a letter asking PhilHealth to pay its remaining balance.
“We’re not waiting. We’re preparing a letter, saying we thank you for your payment, but we need you to pay the full amount in accordance with the contract. We’re not asking anything. We’re not even asking for interest,” Gordon said.
Despite this, he said he would not give PhilHealth a deadline for the other half.
“I really don’t like to give deadlines because I don’t want to paint people in a corner,” he said.
Gordon said they would ask PhilHealth to pay “right away” for future transactions as they will no longer allow the debt to reach P930 million again.
Red Cross earlier said it would stop accepting specimens from returning Filipinos, mega swabbing facilities, and local government units—tests funded by PhilHealth—due to mounting unpaid debt.
The number of samples tested for COVID-19 in Metro Manila fell by 20 percent immediately after the PRC stopped conducting tests chargeable to PhilHealth.
PhilHealth President and CEO Dante Gierran, meanwhile, said that he would not settle the state health insurer’s debt to Red Cross until issues on the implementation of the Memorandum of Agreement were resolved.
PRC, which conducts 30 percent of the total COVID-19 tests nationwide, has tested over 1.1 million.