Legarda calls for mandatory free mass testing, urges for the enactment of Better Normal Bill

January 20, 2022

With the recent surge of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, three-term Senator and Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda once again called for mandatory free testing to help prevent the transmission of the virus.

Citing the two Bayanihan laws that embody the national government’s pandemic response and recovery strategies, Legarda stated in a recent interview that there should already be sufficient and accessible COVID-19 testing centers in the country which shall be overseen by the Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, in cooperation with the Department of Health (DOH), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). These testing centers should provide free tests for the Filipinos.

Legarda also shared that, in her home province of Antique, they were able to establish a molecular laboratory, utilizing the budget of the provincial government, that can process COVID-19 RT-PCR tests. “Antiqueños now need not go to neighboring provinces of Iloilo or Aklan to do their RT-PCR tests and this minimizes the need for people to travel, thus mitigating the risk of people being exposed to the virus or even being infected,” Legarda said.

As the author and sponsor of House Bill No. (HB) 6864, or the “Better Normal Bill”, which she sponsored at the start of the pandemic yet, Legarda said the bill aims to strengthen the country’s COVID-19 response by mandating local government units (LGUs) considered as “critical zones” for COVID-19 to put up testing centers and procure COVID-19 test kits and protective equipment necessary to conduct mass testing. The measure likewise provides for the establishment of drive-thru testing centers, and other contactless modes of testing. Furthermore, the bill mandates the conduct of a nationwide testing drive in preparation for possible waves of infection surges in the coming months or years.

“Ang intensyon po ng probisyon na ito ay makapagbigay ng libreng testing sa ating mga mamamayan sa pamamagitan ng pagpapalawak ng ating testing centers at pag-procure ng test kits kaya tiniyak po nating maisama ito sa panukalang batas noong ipinasa natin ito sa Kongreso,” Legarda said.

“Kung ito po ay maisabatas na, magiging mandatory at readily available na po [ang free testing]. Legarda concluded.

House Bill 6864 was passed on 3rd reading by the House of Representatives on August 10, 2020 and is now pending in the Senate for approval.***