By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Senator Christopher “Bong” Go called for a more coordinated institutional strategy to prevent, reducing and manage the risks associated with pandemics in light of the ongoing threats they pose to the public health and socioeconomic stability of the country.
To mitigate the risks posed by future pandemics, Go renewed his call for the passage of twin bills he filed earlier that would build the country’s capacity to rapidly respond to infectious disease threats.
“As the COVID-19 virus continues to threaten our health and safety, we should use this time to review the lessons we learned, reevaluate our capabilities, improve our efforts and consider new legislative solutions that will strengthen our response to future public health emergencies,” said Go, who heads the Senate Committee on Health.
“It is imperative that we remain vigilant and focused on preventing a bigger outbreak in addition to addressing the urgent needs facing our people,” he emphasized.
In May 2021, the lawmaker filed Senate Bill No. 2158 which establishes the Philippine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC will serve as the lead agency for developing communicable disease control and prevention initiatives. It will be primarily responsible for controlling the spread of infectious diseases in the Philippines.
Some of its major functions will include investigating potential cases of public health emergency; enforcing regulations to prevent the spread of communicable diseases; procuring and distributing vaccines, antibiotics and other medical supplies; and working with other countries and international organizations to improve disease prevention and control systems and practices.
“In other countries, Centers for Disease Control have been instrumental in this pandemic. As experts in the field of infectious diseases, they are at the forefront of the health battle against COVID-19. It is high time for us to have our own CDC. President (Rodrigo) Duterte acknowledges this and has previously urged Congress to pass this important measure,” explained Go.
He jointly filed SBN 2155 which, in turn, creates the Virology Science and Technology Institute of the Philippines (VIP). The Institute shall be the principal laboratory for virology research and laboratory investigations as well as the lead technical coordinator of the nationwide network of virology laboratories.
If passed into law, the VIP will accelerate the development of and expand access to new vaccines against diseases such as COVID-19 and ensure the country has sufficient emergency stockpile of vaccine doses.
Senate Bills 2158 and 2155 are currently being deliberated through the technical working group under the subcommittee headed by Sen. Pia Cayetano under the Committee on Health and the Committee on Science and Technology headed by Sen. Nancy Binay, respectively.
With the threat of a new surge of COVID-19 infections, the senator reiterated the importance of getting vaccinated and abiding by the minimum public health protocols in delaying and reducing the magnitude of the wave’s peak.
The Philippines reported a total of 10,775 new cases on Wednesday, January 5, with a record high positivity rate of 31.7%. The spike comes following the detection of local cases of the Omicron variant, which health experts say is more transmissible than the now dominant Delta variant.
The government has since placed the National Capital Region under Alert Level 3 from January 3 to 15. The nearby provinces of Bulacan, Cavite and Rizal are also subject to the same strict measures from January 5 to 15.
In addition, 29 areas in the NCR, Southwestern Tagalog Region (IV-A) and Cordillera Administrative Region have been placed under granular lockdown.
“This is a learning experience for all of us. But as we move forward, we need better foresight to successfully re-assess what institutional practices we need to change, institutions we need to further strengthen, and make long-lasting plans not only for our recovery but also for our sustainable future,” pointed out Go.
“Dapat one-step ahead tayo kung mayro’ng paparating na mga kalamidad at sakuna, kaya nais rin nating mas pagbutihin pa ang hakbang ng gobyerno upang mas magiging ligtas ang buhay at kalusugan ng mga Pilipino mula sa mga banta ng nakakahawang mga sakit,” he added.
“Gawin natin ang lahat ng ating makakaya upang maproteksyunan ang kinabukasan ng ating mga anak kung sakaling may panibagong pandemya nanaman na darating,” Go ended.