MANILA — The Department of Health on Friday urged President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to fast-track the enactment of a measure creating the country's Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The agency pressed for the swift passage of the bill after Marcos said he was "very hesitant" to extend the state of calamity for COVID-19.
"We are working with the Presidential Legislative and Liaison Office to fast track the passage of the [Philippines] CDC bill," the DOH said in a statement.
"We have requested the same to be certified as urgent by the President," it added.
Once passed into law, the CDC Act will serve as legal basis for the continued and uninterrupted implementation of the government’s COVID-19 vaccination program and response for other future public health emergencies, without the need for the declaration of a state of calamity.
House Bill 6522 was approved on final reading in the House of Representatives. However, Congress went on Christmas recess on Dec. 17 and the Senate has yet to act on the measure.
'OPEN TO ALTERNATIVES'
The DOH has asked Marcos to extend the state of calamity, which is set to elapse Saturday, Dec. 31.
"If the extension will not be approved, we can still continue with the COVID-19 vaccination program using existing doses considering their validity is hinged on their Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs). But, we cannot procure additional doses, including the bivalent vaccines," the DOH said.
The agency also warned that the number of vaccinators would decrease as other cadres, such as pharmacists, may no longer be tapped, and willingness to vaccinate may decrease as immunity from liability is not guaranteed.
The DOH noted it is open to alternatives that can ensure undisrupted vaccination program.
"For instance, we were informed that a special authority to purchase may be granted. Patuloy po tayong nakikipag-ugnayan sa Office of the President. Let us wait on the decision of the President," it added.
Marcos said Thursday he was not keen on extending the state of calamity as "we are not in a state of calamity anymore, technically speaking."
"And that is the wrong mindset to be approaching the new year with. So we’re still trying to find ways to continue to provide the benefits to our medical health workers which is the main issue without the state of calamity," he said.