Philippines Report

Free COVID-19 swab test for stranded passengers

Free COVID-19 swab test for stranded passengers

A lawmaker is appealing to the national government to provide free Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) or COVID-19 swab test to stranded passengers and public utility drivers using revenues from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) as well as Pantawid Pasada funds.

Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin made the call Tuesday after the Department of Transportation (DOTr) reported that nearly 80 passengers of Bicol-bound colorum vehicles from Metro Manila recently 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,” Garbin said in a statement.

(That’s what happens when there is no free testing, a lot of excuses will be made. But if testing is free, many will get tested.)

“Recalling the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte that Pagcor will be focused more on funding public health programs, I appeal to Malacanang, 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,” he said.

“Please include in the free RT-PCR testing the drivers and passengers of the UVs, FXs, buses allowed to take provincial routes like those going to and coming from Bicol,” Garbin added.

Pagcor revenues, especially since Pogo operations continued amid the pandemic, Garbin said, should be able to subsidize 100 percent of the cost of RT-PCR testing in the transport sector starting with the drivers of vehicles with provincial routes to reduce the spread of COVID to the provinces.

“For the PUJ (public utility jeepney) and PUB (public utility bus) drivers and conductors in Metro Manila, some Pantawid Pasada funds should be used to pay for vaccines and COVID testing for all of them. Testing and vaccinating them would effectively help suppress the spread of COVID,” Garbin said.

Duterte earlier ordered the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to implement a price cap on COVID-19 testing and test kits to ensure its accessibility and affordability.

Under the two agencies’ joint order, private laboratories can only charge patients from P4,500 to P5,000, while the limit for public laboratories is P3,800.

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