MANILA - The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) on Tuesday said it is in talks with several agencies to construct a building for the Virology Institute of the Philippines (VIP) in Tarlac in the next 2 years.
The Bases Conversion and Development Authority has allotted 5 hectares of land for the VIP site, according to data from the DOST.
"Nakikipag-usap na ang DOST sa BCDA at DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) para sa lupa... para next year maumpisahan na 'yung construction," DOST Undersecretary Rowena Guevara said in an online press conference
(The DOST is in talks with the BCDA and the DPWH for the land so that we can start construction next year.)
"[It will take] about 2 years to build that building so end of 2023, 2024 nakabukas na 'yung building (the building will be opened)," she said.
The VIP facility will be equipped with biosafety laboratories with "the maximum containment level," which is "a first in the Philippines," she said.
The site will also have an animal house and a greenhouse for animal and plant virus research, she said.
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has allocated P50 million for its design, and another P284 million to fund the VIP's 6 initial projects, the Undersecretary said.
Among these projects are research on several animal viruses that could be transferred to humans, the use of antigenic peptides as potential candidates for COVID-19 vaccine development, and rapid detection of the African Swine Fever virus, she said.
The DOST earlier said that several Filipino virologists abroad have been planning to come home to the Philippines to work at the VIP.
The DOST is waiting for Congress to pass a bill that would enact and provide annual funds for the operation of the virology hub, Guevara said.
A House of Representatives panel recently approved and referred to plenary a measure creating the Philippines' Center for Disease Prevention and Control and the Virology Science and Technology Institute.
"Once may batas, puwede na mag-operate iyan," she said.
(Once a law is passed, it can start operations.)
Should Congress pass the law while the site is still being built, the VIP will be housed in a temporary facility so that scientists could begin working on their projects, she said.