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Duterte orders LGUs to ‘expedite’ hospitalization of COVID-19 patients, vows to shoulder the bill

President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday gave firm marching orders to local executives to attend to the hospitalization of Filipinos who would be found positive for COVID-19, promising to shoulder the cost.

"This is really an order of the national government to the local governments: Help, do not deny, and you must expedite the hospitalization until he is cured. No problem about payment, I will pay. Just bill me, and I will pay," Duterte said in his address to the nation after meeting with top officials on the COVID-19 situation.

"As much as possible, the ordinary citizen, the Filipino, does not have to spend money.  If he is sick, he can seek hospitalization and charge everything to government," he added.

At present, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation shoulders the COVID-19 tests of Filipinos.  Packages for testing are worth P2,710, P5,450, and P8,150.

Duterte issued the directive to local government officials in reaction to Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez's comment on the supposed lack of coordination on the return of stranded Overseas Filipino Workers to their home provinces.

In his Facebook page, Gomez complained about receiving alleged untested OFWs in the city which has been free of the coronavirus disease 2019 for more than 70 days.

Though he could not blame the mayor for his vigilance, Duterte said that there were "constitutional issues" involved.

"There are also constitutional issues that are involved and those are sacred ones, and for those who are not really pronounced to be infected, positive, there's no reason why he should not accept them, especially those who are returning to their home from doing work abroad, kawawa naman kasi, so 'yung constitutional right, there's no reason why we should not accept them with open arms," Duterte said.

Duterte reiterated that local executives should "help anyone."

"[I] will pay for the expenses. Walang problema 'yan. You just sign a whatever document there, I will pay for the hospitalization of any FIlipino who finds himself in a strange place and he has nowhere to go," he added. —LDF, GMA News