MANILA - Health Secretary Enrique Ona and Senator Nancy Binay clashed Thursday on the importance of funding a stem cell research project by the Lung Center of the Philippines.
Speaking at the Senate finance committee hearing, Ona confirmed that P70 million from the Disbursement Acceleration Program was used to fund a Bio-Regenerative Technology Program or Stem Cell Research "aimed at harnessing stem cell research and technology to reconstruct new health cells, replacing cancer or dead cells."
Ona said the P70 million was used to fund the construction of a laboratory and the purchase of equipment.
"The research that we do in the Lung Center includes the use of stem cells to cure lung disease including cancer of the lungs as well as COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease]," he said.
"The research being done in the Lung Center can be used for other illnesses."
Binay, however, said the money could have been used to buy more hospital beds in government hospitals.
"Hindi niyo ba naisip to buy hospital beds instead of stem cell research? 70 million pesos is equivalent to 1,400 beds," she said.
Ona, however, said the Department of Health has already purchased 8,000-10,000 hospital beds to be given out to various health facilities.
He also said the research is part of "preventive, promotive and curative research" that could benefit the country.
He said the project has already produced research that has been published.