THE Philippines should not rely on the private sector to cover mass testing and vaccines for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), House Senior Deputy Minority Leader and former Health Secretary Janette Garin said.

“Government should spend on this. It should not be passed on to the business sector because the business sector is already suffering much,” Ms. Garin said in a Go Negosyo webinar on Friday.

“If you keep on passing all medical and healthcare costs to the business sector, then you end up [with business] terminating employees.”

Ms. Garin is pushing for House Bill No. 6707 or the Crushing COVID ACT, which would have the government cover the real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test for asymptomatic Filipinos returning to work or returning from abroad.

She added that vaccines, when they are developed, should be made available and accessible by the government.

“Vaccination is not just a right. It’s the government’s obligation. You cannot let the businesses absorb this,” she said, adding that businesses must invest in health measures for employees.

Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Chairman and CEO of Ayala Corp., said that the private sector “fills a vacuum” in the short term, saying that there will be more dialogue between private and public sectors on how they will take on the needed health measures.

“The business community basically rose to the occasion; they tried to fill a vacuum in equipment that was needed. We tried to be helpful as much as possible. But then, as the situation begins to normalize and both the government and the private sector begin to understand the new cost-structure around getting us effectively through this pandemic, then there has to be a decision made on who takes on more responsibilities,” he said.

He said the private sector worked on short-term solutions to make sure employees can safely return to work.

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey A. Concepcion said that he believed that quarantine gave the private sector the time to boost its testing capacity.

“We will have to regularly test our employees to create that vigilance,” he said.

Mr. Concepcion spearheaded Project ARK (Antibody Rapid test Kits), a private sector-led project to increase COVID-19 testing that has acquired 1.2 million rapid test kits so far. — Jenina P. Ibañez