Duterte wants probe into pricier testing equipment requested by DOH

President Rodrigo Duterte is concerned by the government's procurement of coronavirus testing equipment, at the request of the Department of Health, that are more expensive  than those purchased by the private sector.

"Bibigyan ko po ng kumpirmasyon na nababahala ang Presidente lalung-lalo doon sa pagkakaiba ng presyo ng testing kit ‘no, na kapag pribadong sektor ang bumili is P1.75 million pero kapag gobyerno ang bumili ay P4 million. So nais po niya ng kasagutan," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a radio interview on Friday, May 22.

(I will confirm that the President is troubled especially by the difference of price in testing kits, which, when the private sector bought, it cost P1.75 million while what the government bought was P4 million. He wants an answer.)

The President wants the price difference and procurement investigated, added the spokesman.

"Because he does not understand, like the public, why there is such a big discrepancy," said Roque in Filipino.

The price of 10 automated nucleic acid extractors purchased by the government to speed up the processing of coronavirus tests was publicly questioned by Senator Panfilo Lacson in a Senate hearing.

The machines were bought at P8 million each from US-based Thermo Fisher Scientific, based on specifications the DOH gave the Department of Budget and Management, which made the procurement.

But GoNegosyo, a private group, was able to buy an automated extractor for only around P1.75 million from China-based Sansure. 

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III defended requesting specifically for the Thermo Fisher Scientific-branded extractors. He said Philippine labs are using US real-time PCR machines so Sansure extractors would be incompatible to them.

Then on Wednesday, May 20, he took this back, saying instead that the DOH requested for Thermo Fisher Scientific machines because it is an "open system," meaning it can work with other test kit brands. Sansure extractors, meanwhile, can only work with Sansure test kits.

The Bayanihan to Heal as One Act allows the DOH to determine which laboratory equipment the government should purchase. 

Faster methods of procurement, such as skipping public bidding, is made possible by the same law due to the urgency of the coronavirus crisis. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.