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The increasing number of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) testing centers might be one of the reasons why the Executive branch decided to slash the proposed 2022 budget of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) by P170 million, according to a report by Philippine News Agency.

From P393 million last year, RITM will get just P223 million from the Department of Health's (DOH) P242.22-billion proposed budget.

RITM was the lone laboratory doing reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests when the pandemic began in March last year.

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Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said during Monday’s media briefing there are other reasons for the reduction in RITM funding.

"Pagdating sa testing, hindi lang naman po RITM ang nagti-tests. In fact, napakadami na po nating testing centers (In terms of testing, it is not only RITM that can do it. We already have many testing centers). We started with RITM as the lone laboratory but now, we are now doing 70,000 tests a day," he said.

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,” he added.

Roque noted that more medical institutions are offering Covid-19 tests, most of them from the private sector.

“We are now relying almost exclusively, not exclusively, but to a very large degree on the private sector,” he said. 

The DOH announced a new price ceiling for RT-PCR tests, cartridge-based testing, and home service tests on Aug. 26.

The Joint Administrative Order No. 1 under Executive Order 118 ordered public and private health facilities to charge only the required testing fees.

For public testing facilities, patients should pay a maximum of PHP2,800 for RT-PCR tests and PHP2,450 for cartridge-based tests.

Private testing centers can charge no more than PHP3,360 for RT-PCR tests and PHP2,940 for cartridge-based tests, with 20 percent allowable markup.

The price cap for home service tests will be PHP1,000 for RT-PCR and PHP1,000 for cartridge-based tests.

Laboratories, health facilities, and other testing centers may have prices lower than the prescribed price cap for RT-PCR testing and home service provided that quality of service is maintained.

However, no manufacturer, distributor, or testing facility should exceed the price cap.

“The Department of Health and Department of Trade and Industry recognizes that Filipinos should be protected from undue financial risks when availing of the RT-PCR testing, which is an essential service in this time of public health emergency. Hence, we will continue to monitor, evaluate, and enforce these prices to ensure that Covid-19 testing remains affordable and of quality,” the DOH stated in an advisory released in February.


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