Press Release
May 28, 2021

Bong Go welcomes ongoing efforts for the construction of the PH virology institute in New Clark City, vows to push for measure to better respond to future pandemics

Senator Christopher "Bong" Go vowed again to push for his measure institutionalizing the Virology Institute of the Philippines as he welcomes efforts from concerned government agencies to construct the facility in New Clark City, Capas, Tarlac in the next two years.

"I welcome the ongoing efforts of the DOST and other concerned government agencies to advance the establishment of the country's virology institute. Suportado ko rin po ang kanilang plano na maitayo ang health facility na ito sa New Clark City, Tarlac," Go said.

"Sa parte ko naman po bilang Senador at chair ng Senate Committee on Health, nangangako ako na ipaglalaban ko ang pagpasa ng virology institute bill sa Kongreso. The VIP will greatly help us in building our own capabilities when it comes to vaccine development and manufacturing, making us less reliant on the international market for vaccines," he added.

The Department of Science and Technology is currently in talks with the Bases Conversion and Development Authority and the Department of Public Works and Highways for the land on which the facility will be built so construction can start next year.

The VIP facility will be equipped with biosafety laboratories with the maximum containment level, a first in the Philippines according to the science and technology department. It will also have a greenhouse and an animal house for plant and animal virus research.

DOST also revealed that several Filipino virologists abroad have expressed their interest to come home to the Philippines to work at the VIP.

An amount of PhP50 million for its design and another PhP284 million to fund the institute's initial projects have already been allocated by the Department of Budget and Management.

To institutionalize the facility, Go, on May 4, filed Senate Bill No. 2155, or the "Virology Science and Technology Institute of the Philippines Act of 2021", which establishes the VIP as the principal laboratory of the country in providing virology laboratory investigations, researches, and technical coordination of the entire network of virology laboratories nationwide.

"In the long term, investing heavily on health research initiatives should be pursued. It is for this reason that I filed this bill in support of President Rodrigo Duterte's call to establish a virology institute that will capacitate the country to conduct scientific research initiatives and eventually develop our own vaccines," he said.

Go stated that previous viral outbreaks could have been prevented or handled more efficiently with the presence of a national virology laboratory that will conduct studies of viral diseases in humans, plants and animals.

"Understanding the genetic changes in viral genome is a prerequisite for a strong public health response to emerging, re-emerging and existing viral diseases," Go pointed out.

If passed into law, the proposed institute will be an attached agency under DOST. The DOST, in coordination with the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health, shall promulgate policies for and exercise of supervision and control over the Institute.

All functions of the DOH involving biomedical research in virology and of the DA involving animal and plant virology will also be transferred to the Institute.

Meanwhile, all virology laboratories will be required to regularly provide local and international education and training for its laboratory workers at the expense of the laboratory.

The DOST will also be tasked to device a scheme that provides incentives for laboratory workers in virology laboratories whose outputs result in high-impact medical, agricultural, technological and industrial innovations.

Earlier, Go said that he hopes for the proposed virology institute to eventually enable the country to develop and manufacture its own vaccines against diseases, such as COVID-19, in the future.

"Hindi natin masabi kung may pandemya pa na darating sa buhay natin. So, mabuti na po na maging proactive tayo. Someday, magkaroon sana tayo ng sariling kapasidad na gumawa ng bakuna sa bansa. Ngayon pa lang, paghandaan na natin ang posibilidad na ito," he said.

Aside from this measure, Go also filed Senate Bill No. 2158 which seeks to create the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to serve as the lead agency for developing and applying communicable disease control and prevention initiatives. It will primarily be responsible for controlling the introduction and spread of infectious diseases in the country.

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