Press Release
August 19, 2020

Villanueva: PhilHealth has sufficient funds to cover workers' COVID-19 testing

Employers should not think twice about sending their workers to COVID-19 testing because PhilHealth would be able to shoulder the cost, according to Senator Joel Villanueva.

Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee, sought assurance from Health Secretary Francisco Duque III at the resumption of the Upper Chamber's Committee of the Whole inquiry on Tuesday into the alleged anomalies hounding the state health insurance firm.

"Hindi po dapat mag alinlangan na magsagawa ng regular surveillance test ang mga employers," Villanueva said in a statement. "May sapat na pondo ang Philhealth para mag-monitor at mag-test para sa COViD sa mga lugar-paggawa kaya dapat ipatupad ito sa lalong madaling panahon."

"COVID-19 surveillance in the workplace should be mandatory, and PhilHealth should pay for it," he added.

At the hearing, Duque, who is also concurrent PhilHealth chairman, agreed with Villanueva, saying he was expecting the state health insurance firm to put together a program to cover the cost of testing workers.

The regular, random testing of workers forms part of Villanueva's suggested action plan to the government in its management of the pandemic. Of the P22.5 billion the PhilHealth expected to spend for COVID-19 testing this year, the state health insurance firm may have spent close to P7 billion based on DOH data that it has conducted two million tests, the lawmaker estimated. The average cost of COVID-19 test is P3,500.

With more tests for workers, authorities would be able to track closely the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, and give policymakers better data to assess the situation, Villanueva explained.

He also asked the health secretary, who is co-chair of the IATF, to consider implementing epidemiological surveillance in the workplace, where authorities seek out information from communities and areas where people gather such as workplaces, and use the data to tailor-fit the response.

Villanueva also called on the Department of Labor and Employment to continue its efforts to ensure workplaces comply with workers' safety standards.

From June 3, 2020 to July 31, 2020, some 77% of inspected establishments comply with DOLE-DTI joint guidelines on COVID-19 prevention, Villanueva said, citing the agency's data.

"Despite the relatively high compliance rate of establishments, workplace infections are still rising. This may mean that the guideline is not enough, or inspections being done do not capture the whole OSH situation in the country," the lawmaker said.

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