Press Release
August 18, 2020

Transcript of the interjection of Senator Pia S. Cayetano and response of DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III
Committee of the Whole inquiry on PhilHealth

PSC: Mr. Senate President... With the indulgence of my colleagues, can I just ask one question? Follow up lang po sa question ni Minority Floor Leader. It's very important because we are in a bicam sa Bayanihan II po.

This is addressed to Secretary Duque, good afternoon, sir. The question of Senator Drilon was, would you endorse the waiver of the requirement to go through the stage 4, as required by the Universal Healthcare Law. That was the question. And your answer was, you hesitated and then you said, no or you will have a hard time endorsing that. Is that correct?

DOH Sec. Duque: Yes, ma'am. Given that this is a novel vaccine. Evolving.

PSC: So my question is this. If the phraseology in the Bayanihan Law would be such that, if WHO and other countries with recognized and mature FDAs - similar to how we wrote in Bayanihan I, that's why I think you had some confusion. In Bayanihan I, we referred to the mature FDAs who have approved testing kits. Dito naman sa Bayanihan II, we are referring to mature FDAs who would approve the waiving of a stage 4. Would that seem acceptable to you?

So I repeat, if WHO endorses, or these countries with mature FDAs - and I understand mature FDAs include the US, UK, and Russia din pala - so if they would allow and they are okay with doing away with that, are you prepared to endorse it or do you even have to consult other... Hindi po kayo epidemiologist, hindi po kayo microbiologist, so do you need time to consult? Because this is very important to us. Thank you, Sir.

DOH Sec. Duque: I will consult the experts, your honor. But having said that, one of the guiding principles in our pandemic response is that science should be the basis of whatever decision we make, whether to wait for Phase IV or to... We have to be open to the experts, but we have groups of experts as well, some opposing each other, some very divided, but some have very strong consensus.

Makikipag-usap po kami. How much time can we be given, your honor?

PSC: Well, this is very crucial. I think we are hoping to wrap up the bicam tomorrow. But I leave it to the leadership, I am not the chair. It's just an issue that we were tackling yesterday. So, I think 24 hours. But I can ask the chair of our committee, Senator Angara. But I think our deadline is tomorrow. But this is a very crucial issue.

And for the record, Mr. President, I just want to spread into the record that I do not believe in legislating science. That's why we are asking these questions. Because precisely, we want to craft the wording such that we are basing decisions on science. So for the record po. Because it is very important that our country's confidence in vaccination is preserved. Dahil we already went through a trauma on vaccinations with Dengvaxia. Our country cannot afford another trauma. We cannot afford millions of infants not being vaccinated for measles, for chickenpox, for smallpox, for the polio drops, because of erroneous decisions on this, Mr. President.

So, that's it, Mr. President. Thank you so much for indulging me. Unless the Secretary would like to clarify anything further. Thank you so much.

DOH Sec. Duque: Just corollary to your statement, I just want to underscore that careful balance of health and time. And we will finalize our position paper on this, upon the advice of the Health Technology Assessment Council, which is a creation of the Universal Health Care Law, the FDA, and also the Philippine Medical Association, and its component medical societies.

PSC: Mr. President, one more thing, just for the record. Natatakot lang po ako, kasi nami-misquote tayo sa mga napakahalagang issue na ganito. For the record, the reason there is a provision like that in the draft is precisely because we wanted to ensure that if WHO and countries with mature FDAs like the US are already using the vaccines, and they have decided to waive stage 4, then hindi naman pwedeng tayo lang ang nakatali, yung buong mundo, nag-vaccine na. So for the record lang, kaya ine-explore itong provision na ito.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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