Press Release
February 11, 2022

Bong Go renews push for establishment of country's virology institute and center for disease control and prevention

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the lives of millions of Filipinos, Senator and Chair of the Senate Committee on Health Christopher "Bong" Go supported calls for the passage of two legislative measures that will help the country better prepare for public health emergencies.

In an interview on February 7, Presidential Legislative Liaison Office Undersecretary Orville Ballitoc reiterated that President Rodrigo Duterte supports the passage of measures establishing the Virology Science and Technology Institute of the Philippines (VIP) and the Philippine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The President had previously mentioned this during his sixth and final State of the Nation Address delivered last July 26, 2021.

"I salute President Duterte's continued leadership throughout this unprecedented pandemic and he continues to find ways to push for a more proactive approach in addressing public health emergencies of any kind," said Go.

"Sa bawat oras na nagkulang tayo sa paghahanda, maaaring buhay ang kapalit. Kaya naman dapat one-step ahead tayo. Hindi natin masasabi kung kailan dadating ang susunod na pandemya kaya mabuti na na maging proactive tayo," he emphasized.

The lawmaker is the author of Senate Bill No. 2155 which seeks to create a national virology laboratory that will study and investigate viral diseases in the country. The overall goal of the VIP is to help develop vaccines against highly pathogenic emerging viruses.

The bill, most notably, provides guidelines for the establishment and operation of testing, reference and biosafety levels 1, 2, 3 and 4 research laboratories. It likewise grants the VIP the authority to regulate the operation of the existing virology laboratory network in the country.

"These efforts are intended to avoid similar situations where poorer nations are left with fewer medical resources, particularly vaccines, to address pandemics as compared to their more developed countries that have early on invested in health sciences and medical research," Go previously explained.

Aside from SBN 2155, the senator similarly pushed for the passage of SBN 2505 which will create the Philippine CDC. The bill is the consolidated version of an earlier measure he authored and filed in May 2021.

The proposed Center will be primarily responsible for protecting Filipinos from health threats, both foreign and domestic. To accomplish this, the CDC will detect and respond to new and emerging health threats, conduct scientific research, and communicate critical health information to the public.

The bill also establishes four sub centers that will carry out the functions of the CDC, namely, (1) Center for Health Statistics, (2) Center for Surveillance and Epidemiology, (3) Center for Health Evidence, and (4) Center for Reference Laboratories.

The CDC shall serve as an agency within the Department of Health led by the Director General, with the rank of Undersecretary, and the Deputy Director General. During a state of public health emergency, all health personnel, including those employed by local government units, will directly report to the Center.

"As the COVID-19 pandemic 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," appealed Go.

"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 added.

SBN 2155 (VIP) is currently pending in the Committee on Science and Technology chaired by Sen. Nancy Binay while SBN 2505 (Ph CDC) is set for plenary deliberations.

To complement these efforts to increase the nation's resilience against future public health emergencies, Go had successfully pushed for the passage of 24 laws in 2021 that will upgrade existing and establish new health facilities across the country. In addition, 15 local hospital bills sponsored by the senator were recently approved on the third and final reading in the Senate last January 31.

Said bills include upgrading and increasing of the bed capacities of existing hospitals as well as establishing new DOH-run hospitals in the provinces of Albay, Bulacan, Cagayan, Cebu, Ilocos Sur, Iloilo, La Union, Maguindanao, Misamis Oriental, Nueva Ecija, Quezon, Samar and Sulu.

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