The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading two priority measures of the Duterte administration — the creation of the Virology Institute of the Philippines Act and the Philippine Center for Disease Prevention and Control Act (CDC).
The two measures were passed during Wednesday’s plenary session or two days after President Rodrigo Duterte reiterated his call to pass the said bills during his final State of the Nation Address (SoNA).
House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco on Thursday commended his fellow lawmakers for passing the measures, which he believed would improve the country’s capability to address future pandemics.
“Covid-19 will not be the last pandemic and global health emergency, so we need to be prepared to deal with the next one,” Velasco said.
House Bill 9559 seeks to establish the Virology Institute of the Philippines (VIP) at the government’s forefront of research and development institution in the field of virology.
Senator Christopher “Bong” Go has counterpart measures in the Upper Chamber, seeking the creation of the virology center and the country’s equivalent of the US CDC, filed as Senate Bill 2155 and SB 2158, respectively.
The virology agency will be tasked to investigate and explore viruses and viral diseases in humans, plants and animals.
In her sponsorship speech, House Committee on Health chairperson and Quezon Rep. Angelina “Helen” Tan explained that the VIP shall serve as the premier research and development institute.
Tan, the bill’s principal author, also proposed that the VIP must establish strategic partnerships with the world’s leading scientists, virology centers, and institutes, and conduct innovative and pioneering researches to advance the frontiers of virology in the country.
“The VIP shall implement policies, plans, programs, and projects for the development of virology science and technology in the country and the promotion of scientific and technological activities for both the public and private sectors,” Tan, a medical doctor, said.
“It shall ensure that the results of these activities are properly applied towards self-reliance and utilized to accelerate economic and social development towards the protection of the citizens and its resources,” she added.
Tan also disclosed that the creation of the VIP is one of the priority measures of the Department of Science and Technology, thus the agency already proposed in its 2021 National Expenditure Program (NEP) the allocation of P283 million to build it.
Senator Christopher ‘Bong’ Go has counterpart measures in the Upper Chamber, seeking the creation of the virology center and the country’s equivalent of the US CDC.
Meanwhile, House Bill 9560 proposed to create the Center for Disease Prevention and Control that will serve as the country’s principal health protection agency.
It will be responsible for taking the necessary measures to prevent, protect, and manage the spread of diseases and other health hazards detected locally and abroad, the measure provided.
Also passed on the same day was House Bill 9456 or the proposed Health Procurement and Stockpiling Act.
The bill seeks to create the Health Procurement and Stockpiling Bureau that would be an attached agency of the Department of Health.
The organization is proposed to stockpile, conserve, and facilitate the supply and distribution of pharmaceuticals and vaccines for public health emergencies.
“These efforts are intended to avoid similar situations where poorer nations are left with fewer medical resources, such as vaccines and other essential drugs, to address pandemics as compared to more developed countries that have early on invested in health sciences and medical research,” Go said.
MICHELLE R. GUILLANG