The late senator Miriam Defensor Santiago
MANILA — Against a backdrop of a waning pandemic and a bright prospect of a nation rising from the ashes of the destruction brought about by Covid19, presidential candidate Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. on Thursday said there is a need to revisit the pandemic preparedness bill that was filed by former senator Miriam Santiago.
The move is to ensure “that the country will be ready to address any health issue of this magnitude that could threaten and disrupt the public health system in the future.”
Santiago, who ran as president with Marcos as her running-mate during the 2016 elections, filed Senate Bill No. 1573, or the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act at the height of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-COV) outbreak in 2013.
The bill called for the creation of a national health strategy in cases of pandemics and national emergencies and seeks to “strengthen national response and preparedness for public health emergencies, such as those which result from natural disasters and severe weather, recent outbreaks and pandemics, bioterrorism, mass casualties, chemical emergencies, and radiation emergencies.”
“Kahanga-hanga ang kaniyang foresight. Ilang taon bago mangyari ay nakita na niya ito, sayang at hindi ito naging batas. Subalit kung ako ay papalaring mahalal ay isusulong ko na muli itong pag-aralan at tuluyang isabatas upang maging handa tayo sa anumang darating na mga problemang pangkalusugan,” Marcos said.
Santiago came up with the idea of passing the bill after the MERS-COV, a coronavirus strain that was deadlier than the 2002 SARS outbreak, hit several countries in the Middle East.
Unfortunately, her proposal which can be described as preventive and way ahead of its time was widely ignored by her peers.
According to the official Senate website, Santiago’s bill could have solved the problems that the government experienced at the height of the Covid19 pandemic.
“Hindi na tayo makakapayag na malito at magkagulo ang pamahalaan dahil sa kawalan ng direksyon at koordinasyon ng iba’t-ibang sangay. Ang nangyari ay nagkanya-kanya ang mga ahensya ng pamahalaan at mga local government units kaya lalong lumala ang problema,” Marcos stressed.
He said the government must be prepared to respond immediately to a given situation, and the Santiago bill has laid out the blueprint for “effective emergency response.”
“Nais nating lumikha ang Kagawaran ng Kalusugan ng isang istratehiya kung paano lalabanan ang pandemic at siya na rin ang magiging lead agency na mangangasiwa upang bigyan ng direksyon ang ibang ahensya ng pamahalaan gaya ng Department of Interior and Local Government, ang National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, at kahit ang Red Cross,” Marcos said.
Santiago’s bill also called for the creation of an emergency fund every fiscal year for pandemics and other emergencies.
“Kung may nakalaan na pondo para dito, hindi na kailangan pa na mag-realign at mag-reallocate ng budget at sa unang banta pa lamang ng pandemya ay naroon na agad ang pamahalaan para tumugon,” he added. (ai/mtvn)