House panel OKs bill for creation of PH virology institute, CDC

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 21 2021 05:35 PM

MANILA — A House of Representatives panel on Friday approved the creation of two agencies aimed at improving the Philippines' response to a global health crisis similar to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The House appropriations panel submitted for plenary session the proposed measure that would create the Philippines' Center for Disease Prevention and Control and the Virology Science and Technology Institute. 

Center for Disease Prevention and Control

The Philippine Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) would be an attached agency of the Department of Health (DOH) "for policy and program coordination" and a "technical authority on all matters regarding disease prevention and control."

Under the measure, the following DOH units, divisions or functions would be transferred to the CDC:

  • Epidemiology Bureau
  • Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM)
  • Sexually Transmitted Disease – Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (STD-AIDS) Cooperative Central Laboratory
  • Select functions of the International Health Surveillance Division of the Bureau of Quarantine as follows: passive international health surveillance; development of communication methods for wider and more effective delivery of critical public health information with international importance; technical and standard setting functions of the Disease Prevention and Control Bureau including that of the Mental Health Division, Cancer Division and Oral Health Division

The bill also aims to establish Regional Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (RCDCs).

House ways and means panel chair Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said the bill could be enacted into law "this year."

"Recently, the Senate has begun committee discussions on the bill. With plenary approval looming in the House, I believe this bill will see enactment this year," Salceda said in a statement.

Salceda said he hopes the House would move the measure through the plenary after President Rodrigo Duterte's final State of the Nation Address in July.

Virology Institute of the Philippines

Meanwhile, the proposed Virology Institute of the Philippines (VIP) will focus on the following areas: 

  • Research on viruses using a modern approach such as molecular biology and its application or biotechnology
  • Development of diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics
  • International cooperation and network of databases of virus infections
  • Operation of a virus gene bank, virus genome laboratory, and virus reference laboratory to focus on viruses circulating in the Philippines for disease prevention and epidemiological studies
  • Operation of a virus high containment laboratory dedicated to the study of highly infectious and highly pathogenic viruses

The VIP would be an attached agency under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

Salceda made a distinction between the proposed VIP and the currently operating Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), an agency under the Department of Health. 

"The difference between the VIP and the current approach of the RITM is that VIP will be dedicated exclusively to the broadest and deepest possible exploration of everything we need to know about viruses that can affect the country, and more importantly, how we can prepare for them, as well as what opportunities lie in the research," Salceda said. 

Salceda added that the proposed institute would help the country be better prepared for pandemics in the future.

"It should be clear to all of us: preparation yields the best outcomes. The same goes for pandemics. It’s difficult to do because the rewards are not immediate. But the consequences to the unprepared can be catastrophic," he said.

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