As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Christopher “Bong” Go filed Senate Bills 2155 for a virology institute and 2158 for a center for disease control.
Senate Bill No. 2155, or the “Virology Science and Technology Institute of the Philippines Act of 2021”, establishes the VIP which will serve as the principal laboratory of the country in providing virology laboratory investigations, researches, and technical coordination of the entire network of virology laboratories nationwide.
The proposed institute will be an attached agency under the Department of Science and Technology. The DOST, in coordination with the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health, shall promulgate policies for and exercise of supervision and control over the Institute.
All functions of the DOH involving biomedical research in virology and of the DA involving animal and plant virology will also be transferred to the Institute.
The Institute shall be headed by a Director, who shall have a rank of an undersecretary and shall be appointed by the President of the Philippines upon the recommendation of an advisory body. The Institute will also have technical and administrative support staff as well as consultants as may be necessary.
Meanwhile, all virology laboratories will be required to regularly provide local and international education and training for its laboratory workers at the expense of the laboratory.
The DOST will also be tasked to device a scheme that provides incentives for laboratory workers in virology laboratories whose outputs result in high-impact medical, agricultural, technological and industrial innovations.
Earlier, Go said that he hopes for the proposed virology institute to eventually enable the country to develop and manufacture its own vaccines against diseases, such as COVID-19, in the future.
In addition, Senate Bill 2158 provides for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention which shall serve as the lead agency for developing and applying communicable disease control and prevention initiatives. It will be primarily responsible for controlling the introduction and spread of infectious diseases in the country.
The CDC shall serve as an attached agency of the Department of Health. It will subsume the functions and activities of the DOH’s Epidemiology Bureau, Disease Emergency Management Bureau, and Disease Prevention and Control Bureau.
The Center for Disease Control will also actively work to reduce threats to the nation’s health by providing consultation and assistance to other countries and international organizations to help improve their disease prevention and control systems and practices.
A Communicable Disease Prevention and Control Bureau will also be created under which the following divisions will be clustered: the Infectious Diseases for Elimination Division (IDED) and Infectious Disease of Prevention and Control Division (IDPCD).
When enacted into law, all relevant health professionals and institutions across the country are mandated to report any pertinent information that may be the cause of a public health emergency to the CDC or DOH. The center will be responsible for investigating such cases and notifying the Secretary of Health of suspicious events.
During a state of public health emergency, the CDC shall be tasked with procuring or distributing vaccines, antibiotics, and other medical supplies necessary for responding to the crisis. It will likewise exercise other emergency powers over persons, including treatment and the disposal of infectious human remains.
To manage its day-to-day operations, the center will be headed by the Executive Director whom the President of the Philippines shall appoint with the rank of Undersecretary. The Secretary of Health, upon the recommendation of the Executive Director, will be authorized to make and enforce regulations preventing the transmission or spread of communicable diseases from foreign countries into the Philippines.
To ensure coordination among the various government agencies, Go’s proposed bill also provides for the creation of a Health Emergency Coordinating Council (HECC) to which the center shall serve as the Secretariat. The HECC is mandated to formulate a Sudden Onset Health Emergency Management Plan to serve as a framework for the government’s response to a public health emergency.
Furthermore, the bill grants the council the authority to certify the existence of a state of health emergency at the onset of a health outbreak. This declaration of a state of health emergency will serve as an authorization to use calamity funds.
A National Health Emergency Response will likewise be created to execute any relevant order or activity as directed by the President, Secretary of Health, CDC or HECC, such as seizure, surveillance, search and disposal.
A Congressional Oversight Committee on Communicable Disease Control and Prevention will be established to monitor the implementation of the law, if passed.