House OKs health stockpiling bill on 2nd reading

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 01 2021 11:09 PM

MANILA - The House of Representatives has approved on 2nd reading House Bill 9456 or the proposed Health Procurement and Stockpiling Act.

The bill was approved in ayes and nayes vote during the plenary session Tuesday night, paving the way for eventual final approval.

House Committee on Health Chair, Quezon 4th District Rep. Angelina "Helen" Tan, M.D. earlier explained that her stockpiling bill took off from when the country experienced shortage of essential medical supplies and necessary materials to combat COVID-19 pandemic such as masks, alcohol, personal protective equipment (PPEs), mechanical ventilators, and RT-PCR test kits and machines. 

Tan said that as defined in the bill, stockpiling refers inventory of health commodities and materials or those physical reserve of definite quantities of commodities or materials that are stored in government warehouses or on government-owned properties that are intended for all essential health uses in times of emergencies.

Tan added that to operationalize such policy, the bill seeks to create a Health Procurement and Stockpiling Bureau, a body under the Department of Health. 

It shall serve as the principal agency mandated to undertake a transparent, fair, proactive, and innovative procurement service for the DOH and to stockpile, conserve, and facilitate the release of adequate amounts of potentially life-saving pharmaceuticals, vaccines, devices, and materials in times of public health emergencies. 

“It shall undertake important functions such as identifying strategic and critical drugs and medicines, vaccines, devices and materials that have distinct capability of being stockpiled; serving as a national supplement to these items to state supplies acting as a stopgap buffer when the immediate supply of adequate amounts may not be immediately available; and facilitating the provision of potentially-life saving pharmaceuticals in times of public health emergencies, among others," she explained.

Tan also said that in order to maintain and ensure an unhampered and steady supply of critical drugs, vaccines and devices, there shall also be a Medical Stockpiling Fund to support the National Drug and Device Security Program which will be managed by DOH. 

“The DOH may also solicit and receive donations which shall form part of the fund and such donations shall be exempt from income and donor’s tax and all other fees and charges imposed by the government. Likewise, fund raising activities may be conducted by the DOH and the proceeds of which shall accrue to the Fund and shall be exempt from any and all taxes. It is important to exempt these donations from taxes, fees and charges in order to incentivize donors, and encourage more donations," Tan said.