Press Release
May 6, 2021


Good afternoon to everyone!

I just want to give a short statement in support of the measures for discussion.

First of all, I would like to thank Senator Pia Cayetano, Vice Chair of this Committee, for graciously accepting to preside over this hearing. As Chair of the Committee on Health, one of my priorities is to make our health system better prepared to respond to future health crises. Kaya po full support ako sa mga bills for discussion today. I am glad this is also one of the priorities of Senator Cayetano who is also the Chair of the Committee on Sustainable Development Goals, Innovation and Futures Thinking.

Certainly, we must learn from this experience and employ futures thinking so that we can address the gaps and weaknesses to transform our health system.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the need to capacitate and improve our government health facilities. Ngayong pandemya, problema natin ang kakulangan natin sa hospital beds, particularly ICU beds. Kinakailangan po natin magtayo ng temporary facilities and modular hospitals for COVID-19 cases. But aside from these facilities, equally important is the service of our healthcare workers.

Gusto ko pong pasalamatan ang ating mga healthcare workers at mga volunteers sa serbisyo ninyo sa bayan sa panahon ng COVID-19. Walang katumbas ang sakripisyo ninyo para malampasan natin ang pandemyang ito. The entire nation owes you a debt of gratitude that cannot be repaid.

But the reality is, our health personnel are strained by the surge of COVID-19 cases which hinders our capacity to combat the disease immediately and effectively. As hospitals in the NCR Plus areas are overburdened, its medical frontliners are exhausted because of the number of patients.

Some health workers in the Visayas expressed willingness to be deployed to NCR Plus areas. I am very thankful to them. They are one of the reasons for making us believe that the spirit of bayanihan continues to live within the hearts of Filipinos.

As we try to assess the situation, we see the need for a Medical Reserve Corps which is why I filed Senate Bill 1451, ito po yung Medical Reserve Corps. Even the President, in his recent State of the Nation Address, has acknowledged the need for this measure. We need a Medical Reserve Corps that may be called upon and mobilized to assist the national government and the local government units in their functions related to addressing the medical needs of the public in times of national emergencies. Those who are deployed should be properly compensated.

The establishment of the Medical Reserve Corps will uphold the role of health workers in nation-building and promote in them patriotism and nationalism.

The global outbreak of the coronavirus disease sparked the need to have a comprehensive approach and multi-disciplinary preparedness for the emergence and re-emergence of pandemic and epidemic diseases. Dealing with the diseases promptly and appropriately requires a reorganization and strengthening of the country's health units committed to prevent and control communicable diseases.

It is for this reason that I filed Senate Bill 2158 which seeks to establish a Center for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC which shall be the principal agency tasked with developing and implementing communicable disease control and prevention initiatives. It shall be responsible for controlling the spread of infectious diseases.

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 strengthen our health units and have our own CDC. President Duterte also acknowledges this and has urged Congress to pass this important measure.

Again, let me reiterate, this is a learning experience for all of us. But then 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.

Bigyan po natin ang ating mga kababayan ng bagong pag-asa at mas maayos na kinabukasan.

Meron lang po akong idadagdag, isisingit ko lang po ito... I welcome the expected arrival of additional doses of vaccines against COVID-19. This means that more people, particularly our frontliners and vulnerable sectors, will be given the necessary protection.

Bukas ay inaasahan nating darating na ang 1.5 milyong doses ng Sinovac. Pinaghahandaan na rin ang posibleng pagdating ng dalawang milyong doses ng bakunang AstraZeneca mula sa COVAX facility ngayong darating na Sabado ng hapon.

Ayon kay Vaccine Czar Secretary Galvez, patuloy ang pagdating ng mga bakunang inaasahan natin sa susunod na linggo at buwan. Malaking tulong lalo na ang AstraZeneca dahil marami sa ating mga medical frontliners, senior citizens at 'yung merong comorbidities ang nabigyan na po ng first dose nito at naghihintay na lang maturukan ng kanilang second dose.

Tuloy-tuloy ang roll-out ng ating COVID-19 vaccination program ayon sa ating priority list. Pakiusap ko lang po, sumunod tayo sa priority list, walang magpapa-importante, walang magpapa-VIP, dahil lahat naman tayo ay nangangailangan mabakunahan. Kung madagdagan natin ang ating daily vaccination rate mula sa kasalukuyang 133,000 daily rate, mas maraming mga Pilipino ang mababakunahan, mas mabilis nating ma-attain ang herd immunity sa community.

At bilang mensahe ko naman sa ating mga kababayan, huwag ho kayong matakot sa bakuna, matakot ho kayo sa COVID-19. Magtiwala tayo sa bakuna, na ang bakuna lang ang tanging susi o solusyon para makabalik tayo unti-unti sa ating normal na pamumuhay. Wag tayong maging kampante. Importante po dito, disiplina po sa bawat isa.

Ulitin ko, magtulungan tayo at magmalasakit po tayo sa kapwa nating Pilipino. Maraming salamat po.

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