Gov’t eases release procedures on medical equipment for COVID-19

THE BUREAU of Customs (BoC) may now release medical equipment vital in addressing the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) without clearance, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said. “Foreign donations of ventilators, respirators and their respective accessories to be used in the treatment of COVID-19 patients need not require FDA clearance prior to customs release,” FDA Director General Roland Enrique D. Dominguez said in a letter to Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo B. Guerrero. The FDA also said that for imported medical equipment, the importer will only be required to present copies of their License to Operate. The March 23 letter was shared by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. in a social media post, after he flagged the FDA, BoC, and the Department of Health over “the runaround” amid the health crisis. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

PhilHealth reiterates assurance of coverage to all COVID-19 patients

THE PHILIPPINE Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) on Thursday reiterated that it will cover all medical expenses of patients tested positive for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). In a briefing on Thursday, PhilHealth President Ricardo C. Morales said under the government’s Universal Health Care program, “Walang tao dapat maglabas ng pera (No one should shoulder the cost).” He added, “Lahat ng gagastusin, whether public or private hospitals, sasagutin ‘yan ng PhilHealth (All the expenses, whether in public or private hospitals, that will be covered by PhilHealth).” Patients under investigation (PUI), or those exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, are also covered. Mr. Morales noted that this week alone, P1.6 billion has been released to hospitals. This is part of the P30 billion fund it has allocated to address COVID-19. The Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases on Wednesday called for an additional funding of P420 million for PhilHealth, to be sourced from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office. — Gillian M. Cortez

Lawmaker proposes use of MOOE budget for COVID-19 response

A LAWMAKER has called for the realignment of part of the Executive branch’s operating budget to augment the fund for addressing the new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). “The tens of billions we can save by reducing unnecessary expenses can be used to fight the coronavirus disease,” Anakalusugan Rep. and chairman of the House committee on public accounts Michael T. Defensor said in a statement on Thursday. He cited non-essential items under the maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) budget such as travel expenses worth P19.4 billion, and training and scholarship expenses worth P32.9 billion, among others. “These are programmed and budgeted expenses we clearly can scrimp on or do away with while we are battling this pandemic,” he said. Mr. Defensor said these funds would be in addition to the P275 billion that the administration’s economic team has committed to raise from non-budget sources. — Genshen L. Espedido