Palace spokesman Harry Roque said on Tuesday it was “impossible” for any country to test all citizens for the coronavirus and the Philippines was aiming to “target test” 1.5 to 2 percent of the population.

Roque clarified his statements the previous day that there was no program for mass testing and that the government would leave the testing of employees returning to work to the private sector.

“Siguro po mali ang ginagamit na term na ‘mass testing.’ Ang tawag po dapat ay ‘expanded targeted testing.’ Wala pong bansa sa mundo na tine-test ang lahat ng mamamayan,” Roque said in a Malacañang briefing.

Roque claimed his statements were taken out of context by CNN Philippines reporter Triciah Terada, who was cut off before she could clarify that she did not write the story on Monday’s briefing.

But GMA News reporter Joseph Morong read part of the transcript of the previous day’s briefing, where Roque said:

Well, as much as possible po ano, mayroon tayong—ini-increase natin iyong capacity natin ng testing kaya nga we’re aiming na aabot tayo sa 30,000. Pero in terms of mass testing na ginagawa ng Wuhan na all 11 million, wala pa pong ganiyang programa at iniiwan natin sa pribadong sektor.”

Roque responded:

“Okay. Well, Joseph, I’ve actually answered this but I will respond to you. Very clearly, literally I compared the situation to Wuhan, where they seek to test all eleven million residents. Hindi po natin gagawin iyon sa buong Pilipinas, ni hindi nga natin magawa po iyan sa Metro Manila. Kaya nga po ang ginagawa natin is a systematic program of targeted testing.

But I’ve answered that question already. Can I have your second question, please?”

Roque explained that “expanded targeted testing” aims to test all symptomatic Filipinos, those coming from overseas, close contacts and those who test positive in rapid testing.

He said the key to testing was “to work on benchmarks,” adding that the government wanted to test 1 to 2 percent of the country’s population, or up to 10 percent in the case of an outbreak epicenter, such as Metro Manila.

On Monday, Roque said testing all citizens would only be possible “in an ideal world” as the government had limited resources.

READ: Mass testing only possible in an ‘ideal world’; PH resources limited – Roque

Roque also noted that other countries only tested critical and mild cases, but the Philippines had tested even asymptomatic close contacts and those with history of travel.

As of May 15, the country has reached a daily testing total of 11,127.

The government aims to reach 30,000 daily tests by the end of May. John Ezekiel J.Hirro