President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday fired off a tirade against the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) for suspending free Covid-19 testing services due to Philippine Health Insurance Corp’s (PhilHealth) P930.99-million debt.

“Mukhang pera,” Duterte said in response to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III’s report about the effects of PRC’s testing halt.

Duterte’s spokesman on Wednesday admitted that the suspension contributed to the decline in Covid-19 cases over the past weeks.

Duque said it led to a “significant” decrease in the country’s testing capacity.

“Due to the intervening events noong October, nagkaroon po ng pagbaba sa bilang ng mga tests na isinagawa. Kasama sa mga ito ay ang ‘yung nagkaroon ng partial suspension in the acceptance of new patients by the PRC,” he said in his report.

Eleven public and private laboratories had stepped up to cushion the impact of the PRC’s testing halt.

The PRC is responsible for a quarter of Covid-19 tests administered nationwide.

It suspended free Covid-19 testing from Oct. 15 to Oct. 28, which caused a 25-percent drop in Covid-19 cases reported daily in the second half of October, according to the Department of Health.

PhilHealth had paid P600 million of its almost P1-billion debt. John Ezekiel J. Hirro