(File photo)

MANILA – The Department of Tourism (DOT) called on laboratories to lower the cost of their RT-PCR tests to encourage more people to travel and hasten the recovery of the tourism industry.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said the test remains out of reach of travelers on a budget but lowering the fee would spur domestic trips without sacrificing the test-before-travel requirement.

"I brought this up with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) because a slash in the cost of RT-PCR tests would encourage more travelers to pursue their travel plans," Romulo-Puyat said Friday.

Aside from boosting tourism, Romulo-Puyat said the move would also help returning overseas Filipinos who are required to undergo such tests upon arrival.

The cost for an RT-PCR test ranges from PHP1,500 to as high as PHP5,000 in some high-end medical facilities, but the IATF-EID has received reports of those charging up to PHP10,000.

At present, the price cap is set at PHP5,000 for private laboratories and PHP3,800 for public laboratories.

Citing the Department of Health and the Department of Trade and Industry, the DOT assured health facilities that they would not be sanctioned should they lower the prices of their RT-PCR tests.

Romulo-Puyat has also called on the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine to allow and certify more facilities that may perform saliva-based RT-PCR tests in addition to Philippine Red Cross (PRC).

“If more hospitals and laboratories are certified to conduct saliva tests, this cheaper alternative will be more accessible to the public and will be recognized by more LGUs in their entry requirements for local travelers. But needless to say, the facilities conducting such tests should be thoroughly screened. We defer to DOH in addressing this concern,” she said, citing the PHP2,000 saliva test at the PRC.

The agency, on the other hand, continues to accept qualified tourists applying for its subsidized RT-PCR test at the Philippine Children's Medical Center (PCMC).

Since last year, around 41,000 tourists have availed of the subsidy, both at the PCMC and UP-Philippine General Hospital. (PNA)