‘At this time of economic difficulties, loss of jobs, dwindling personal savings, and a confirmed recession, many Filipinos are finding it hard to get these tests and pay for them from their own pockets.’
IN one plenary session of the Senate, Sen. Francis “Tol” Tolentino brought out a copy of a thick memorandum from the Department of Health (DOH) which details all the essential medicines and medical devices in the market and their suggested retail prices. But Tolentino wondered why the test kits for COVID-19 are not in this list, and he promptly asked Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who was present at the hearing of the Committee of the Whole.
Duque’s tepid response was that during the start of the epidemic in March, all the test kits received and used were donated, so that they did not have price tags. But that was long ago, the senator insisted, and since there are now many importers, manufacturers and seller, it is about time that these test kits carry tags of prices set by the government, specifically the DOH or the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). Like many queries fielded by the senators, Tolentino did not receive any conclusive answer on this one from the health secretary.
Asked later by reporters, Duque said they will give the matter serious study and consideration.
Tolentino earlier pointed out that rapid test kits, or those that determine if one has antibodies for the virus, costs from P500, P650 to P950. He also cited that the RT-PCR test, which really determines if an individual is infected by the Coronavirus 2019, is priced much higher at P4,000 to P6,000, reaching even as high as P8,000.
At this time of economic difficulties, loss of jobs, dwindling personal savings, and a confirmed recession, many Filipinos are finding it hard to get these tests and pay for them from their own pockets. The reason why pro-people lawmakers like Sen. Tol are insisting they should be tagged.
While he is a newbie in the Senate and several members are more senior and experienced, Tolentino was able to insist legislation that will directly help the very poor, the middle class and small businessmen. One example of this is his “Three Gives Law,” which mandates all power, water, telecom and other utilities to grant their customers the opportunity to pay their bills in three installments without interest. This is for residential and small and medium enterprises which are most devastated by the lockdowns and the epidemic, Tolentino said. He takes great pride that this item has been included in Section 4 of the Bayanihan 2 approved bill that is awaiting the signature of President Duterte.
It is worth mentioning that the “Three Gives” provision in Bayanihan to Recover as One Act also includes easing adjustments all the way up the electricity supply chain, such as the electric cooperatives, power producers and distributors, aside from the Manila Electric Company (Meralco).
We believe this is the correct way to go, since government intervention should not be one sided, and shared responsibility must be maintained in the economy as much as possible.