DOH urging lawmakers to push for priority bills on health

Raphael Bosano, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 28 2022 05:13 PM | Updated as of Sep 28 2022 05:26 PM

Department of Health officer-in-charge Dr. Maria Rosario Vergeire speaks to the media during a press conference at the DOH headquarters in Manila on Sept. 20, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News
Department of Health officer-in-charge Dr. Maria Rosario Vergeire speaks to the media during a press conference at the DOH headquarters in Manila on Sept. 20, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The Department of Health said Wednesday it is pushing for priority bills that would aid the country in better addressing public health emergencies.

According to DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire, these are the Pandemic Protection Act of 2021; Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act; Philippine Health Security Act; and amendments to Government Procurement Reform Act and Cheaper Medicines Act.

The Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act was introduced by the late Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago during the 16th Congress; the Philippine Health Security Act by Sen. Risa Hontiveros in the 18th Congress; and the Pandemic Protection Act of 2021, by Sen. Sonny Angara in the 18th Congress.

According to Vergeire, the Pandemic Protection Act of 2021 "aims to make it a policy that whenever a pandemic or state of public health emergency exists, enterprises that manufacture or import clinical products or provide critical services are granted incentives as well as to temporary suspend export requirements which bar enterprises from offering services domestically."

Meanwhile, the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act will increase the country’s preparedness and capacity of health-care facilities and optimize a flexible approach to halting medical surges and public health emergencies.

The Philippine Health Security and Emergency Act will see the establishment of a medical reserve corps consisting of medical experts, scientists, licensed medical practitioners and volunteers trained for health emergencies.

Vergeire explained that the amendments to Government Procurement Reform Act "will mandate procurement entities to purchase locally produced or manufactured goods that meet the specified quality for select programs of the government which will be identified by the Department of Trade and Industry and relevant government agencies in which the procuring entity shall make the award to lowest domestic manufacturer bidder."

House health committee chairperson Ciriaco Gato said there are currently three priority bills that are in line with the president’s legislative agenda — the establishment of a virology institute, the medical reserve corps and a center for disease control.

“Uunahin namin i-tackle sa first committee meeting itong November. I am confident at least for next year, kung hindi namin maibaba before the year ends, at least by next year, ma-approve sa lower House. This will be sent to the Senate,” he said.

Amending the Government Procurement Reform Act, Ciriaco said, will also be considered a priority.

“We will consider this as one of our priority bills in amending the Republic Act 9184 para naman ma-cure 'yung mga shall we call infirmities or hadlang sa government procurement act. So that there will be a more efficient and faster way of procuring local medicines," he said.

Aside from priority bills, the DOH is also supporting the establishment of pharmaceutical economic zones.

“These roadmaps will altogether outline our strategies for achieving affordable access to medicines thru self-reliance. Our goal will take time and will require collaboration from agencies, branches of government and as well as the private sector,” Vergeire said.

LOCAL GENERICS

The DOH on Wednesday also launched the national roadmap to strengthen the local generics industry and promote better access to medicines for Filipinos.

“Today, we announce the launching of the new Philippine Medicines Policy for 2022-2030, which will guide and align efforts toward sustainable access to quality and affordable essential medicines and a reduction of health out-of-pocket spending for Filipinos, which is congruent with the objectives of the Universal Health Care Law," Vergeire said in a statement.

The PMP aims to provide the strategies and framework for better access to medicines. It contains six key pillars on ACCESS, namely:

  • A-ssurance of Safety, efficacy and quality
  • C-ollaboration on availability and affordability
  • C-ommitment to the rational use of medicines
  • E-ffective networking, partnerships and governance
  • S-ustainable financing for medicines
  • S-trengthening health systems

In response to the directives of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to strengthen the local industry, the DOH together with the Department of Trade and Industry and other relevant government agencies, developed a participatory roadmap to guide the country in developing a more competitive pharmaceutical sector in the country.

The roadmap seeks to substantially increase the capacity of local manufacturers to produce 60 percent of the country’s registered medicines and become major producers of essential drugs by 2030, the DOH said.

The Philippine pharmaceutical market is valued at P228.1 billion in 2021, the DOH said. It posted a strong recovery in terms of value sales at 8 percent. 

In terms of volume, however, there was a 2 percent decline from 2020. In terms of value, 90 percent were through retail drugstores (6.6% Gr), 6% through private hospitals (13.0% Gr) and 4% through government hospitals (35.7% Gr).

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