Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan on Monday demanded an explanation from the Department of Health (DOH) why the locally developed COVID-19 test kits had to apparently go through the eye of a needle before being approved for use while imported ones smoothly entered the Philippines.
"Ang sabi sa atin ng mga insiders sa DOH, walang kahirap-hirap ang mga imported test kits, samantalang pinahirapan talaga itong gawa ng Pinoy," Pangilinan said in a statement.
"Dapat sagutin ng pamunuan ng DOH kung bakit natagalan bago natin nagamit itong mas abot-kaya at de kalidad na test kits. May kumikita ba at nakikinabang sa mas mahal na imported test kits?" he added.
On Sunday, the DOH announced that the test kits developed by the University of the Philippines have already been approved for commercial use.
The development came after minority senators, including Pangilinan, urged the government to use the locally-produced kits which are cheaper compared to its counterparts from China and Korea.
"After almost six months, magagamit na sa wakas ang mga test kit na gawang Pinoy na mahigit kalahati ang presyo kumpara sa imported. Kung hindi pa natin kinalampag nung isang araw baka umabot pa ng taon bago gamitin," Pangilinan said.
In April, the Department of Science and Technology said these kits, priced at P1,320 each, are ready for distribution.
However, these were recalled in May after a "minor problem" was detected during the validation conducted by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.
Earlier this month, the DOH said the defect has been addressed and stakeholders are just awaiting a final advisory for the roll out.
Pangilinan said the DOH should also disclose financial information on the procurement of COVID-19 test kits.
"How much more fund is allocated for procurement of more kits? In the budget for 2021, how much is the DOH proposing for such expense?" he asked.
"As concerned as we are for the health of the Filipinos, we are also keenly looking after the well-being of our state coffers," he added.
As of July 17, over one million individuals in the Philippines have undergone COVID-19 testing. Testing czar Vince Dizon said the government aims to test a total of 10 million people until around April 2021.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country neared 69,000 on Monday after 1,521 new infections were recorded. —LDF, GMA News