Press Release
May 7, 2021

Institutionalizing governing body for health crisis prevention and management sought as Bong Go files bill creating Center for Disease Control and Prevention

On Tuesday, May 4, Senator and Chair of the Senate Committee on Health Christopher "Bong" Go filed Senate Bill No. 2158 which seeks to create a government agency that will assume the responsibility of protecting the lives of millions of Filipinos by monitoring, tracking, responding to, and mitigating outbreaks of infectious diseases and other public health emergencies in the country.

This is one of the priority measures mentioned by President Rodrigo Duterte in his State of the Nation Address last year.

"Over the course of this pandemic, marami tayong mga natutunan. Nakita natin ang mga aspeto ng sistema na dapat maisaayos at mabigyan ng sapat na pansin. Nakita natin ang mga kailangan ayusin sa ating disease surveillance and control capabilities," began Go.

"Kung magkakaroon tayo ng ganitong ahensya, mas mapapaigting natin ang ating kahandaan at kapasidad na rumesponde at mamahala kapag may krisis pangkalusugan. Hindi natin masisiguro kung may susunod pang pandemya tulad ng COVID-19. Ngayon palang, maging mas handa na dapat tayo," he added.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention 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 center 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.

Under SBN 2158, 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.

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).

If 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.

"As the COVID-19 virus continues to threaten the public's health and safety, we should use this time to reexamine how we can improve efforts to combat this virus, reevaluate our capabilities, review the lessons we've learned, and consider new legislative solutions that may strengthen our response to future public health emergencies," continued the Senator.

"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 ended.

Aside from this, Go also filed Senate Bill No. 2155, or the "Virology Science and Technology Institute of the Philippines Act of 2021", which aims to establish the institute 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.

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