HOUSE Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez on Wednesday committed the final approval before Congress' sine die break of a bill that includes essential workers, senior citizens and other vulnerable groups in the priority list for coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) testing through Rolymerase Chain Reaction (PCR).
Romualdez said House Bill (HB) 6865, principally authored by Iloilo Rep. Janette Loreto-Garin, also mandates that Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) shoulder the cost of PCR testing for vulnerable groups, including the cost of services of the pathologist, laboratory specialist and other laboratory staff.
"As Majority Leader, I am committed to steer the approval of this bill on third reading before our sine die adjournment on Thursday. We need to pass this bill the soonest time possible to contain the spread of COVID-19 after the lifting of lockdown," said Romualdez, chairman of the Defeat COVID-19 Ad Hoc Committee (DCC) co chaired by Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, that endorsed the measure for plenary approval.
"Not only should PCR testing be made accessible to the vulnerable members of our society. This gold standard of testing should also be made available for free to our essential employees, senior citizens and those with comorbidities," Romualdez, the chairman of the powerful House committee on rules, stressed.
HB 6865, also known as the Crushing COVID Act, was approved on second reading by the plenary in record time last Monday, shortly after Rep. Garin delivered her sponsorship speech on the measure.
The bill primarily establishes Baseline Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Testing as the protocol COVID-19 testing for the vulnerable members of the Philippine society.
According to Garin, the enactment of her bill into law would address the need to test more people, especially those going back to work, whether they have symptoms or not, as the country transitions to the "new normal."
To date, the DoH protocol provides PCR testing only for those who show symptoms of COVID-19 infection and those exposed to individuals who were tested positive.
In her measure, Garin is pushing to prioritize the testing of workers with co-morbidities, senior citizens, pregnant women, health care workers, food handlers, public, market vendors, sales people in groceries and supermarkets, house helpers, salon workers, media people and factory and construction workers.
Romualdez said the Crushing COVID Act was one of the vital measures that the House leadership considered as priority for plenary approval before the sine die adjournment this week.
"We are working double time to approve all pending measures related to our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic before we go on break. If need be, we may even consider talking about extending the session with the Senate just to have these measures approved," said Romualdez.