MANILA - The Department of Health is requesting some P362 million to fund the country's genome sequencing efforts for the whole year, which would help identify new COVID-19 variants.
"That's the required budget for the sustenance of a 1-year processing of genome sequencing," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a regular press briefing Monday.
The proposed budget will include a year's worth of supply of reagents or chemicals used in tests, testing kits and other logistical requirements.
"[The] DBM (Department of Budget and Management) [has] committed [that] they will look funds for this. This was raised in the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) and IATF has the support for this provision of budget to these 3 institutions for us to sustain the genome sequencing processes," Vergeire said.
The 3 institutions that Vergeire was referring to were the Philippine Genome Center, University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health and Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.
The agency's budget for this year is P210.2 billion, which is 19.6 percent higher than its 2020 budget.
Funds for additional genome sequencing amid the presence of a highly transmissible variant, which first emerged in the United Kingdom, was not included in the 2021 budget, Vergeire said.
SHORTAGE OF REAGENTS
The health official also bared the agency was hindered by a global shortage of reagents, which they usually sourced from Singapore and US.
Due to lack of reagents, health institutions last week were only able to conduct genome sequencing of 48 samples, far from its usual 750 samples per week, Vergeire said.
"We are fast-tracking the release of these reagents from Customs and hopefully we can start sequencing of 750 samples again," she added.
The reagents have arrived Sunday while testing kits are expected this week.
"That's why what we are going to do right now, we have discussed this with Philippine Genome Center and UPNHI that they we will be having advance procurement," Vergeire said.
"Instead of just procuring 2 months’ worth of supply [or] 3 months’ worth of supply, we are now going to procure or to have this ordered for about 6 months."