Press Release
February 13, 2023

Pia: creation of CDC to prepare PH better for outbreaks, public health emergencies
The RITM will be retained and strengthened under CDC, and will work alongside the new agency's two other centers: the Center for Health Statistics, and the Center for Surveillance and Epidemiology
Sponsorship speech of Senator Pia S. Cayetano

Thank you, Mr President.

Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, I rise today to sponsor Senate Bill No. 1869, under Committee Report No. 28, entitled AN ACT CREATING THE PHILIPPINE CENTER FOR DISEASE PREVENTION AND CONTROL, DEFINING ITS POWERS AND FUNCTIONS, APPROPRIATING FUNDS THEREFOR, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES, which is the output of the Sub-Committee on Center for Disease Control that I chair.

We had quite a few bills filed under this Committee Report. These are:

SBN 12 - filed by this representation
SBN 195 - Sen. Go
SBN 544 - Sen. Poe
SBN 600 - our Senate President
SBN 679 - Sen. Estrada
SBN 825 - Sen. Gatchalian
SBN 1039 - Sen. Escudero
SBN 1113 - Sen. Legarda
SBN 1163 - Sen. Ejercito
SBN 1427 - Sen. Revilla
SBN 1477 - Majority Floor Leader Villanueva

And also taking into consideration HBN 6522 by Reps. Gato, Romualdez, Acidre, et al.

This measure is also known as the Philippine Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) Act.

Mr. President, it's been three years since the country recorded its first COVID-19 case, specifically on Jan 21, 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the fragilities and gaps in healthcare systems around the world. It posed a great threat to countries with weaker health systems.

During these three years, we realized the importance of strengthening our health care system- to protect Filipino families from existing and emerging public health emergencies that could present a threat to our lives.

If there's one lesson we learned from this, it's the importance of being prepared for other future crises, including the possibility of another pandemic.

According to the Center for Global Development, there is a 47 to 57 percent chance of another global pandemic as deadly as COVID-19 in the next 25 years. [1]

As a background, I also sponsored this priority legislative measure last Congress. But DOH still wanted to study it further.

Thus, the bill we have today is a product of hearings and ongoing consultations that extended even until the last minute. These are the salient features of the said measure.

  • CDC, under the Department of Health's Office of the Secretary, will act as the technical authority on forecasting, analysis, strategy, and standards development for the prevention and control of all diseases of public health importance and health security events, whether domestic or international in origin.

  • The functions of the CDC shall include, but not limited to, the following:

- Develop strategies, standards, and policies for disease prevention and control;
- Implement disease surveillance and field epidemiology activities;
- Perform data collection and analytics;
- Establish and strengthen public health laboratories;
- Recommend actions for public health threats to appropriate national government bodies;
- Lead public health and risk communications;
- Conduct and manage health research and evidence synthesis;
- Build local capacity for surveillance and health research; and
- Promote scientific integrity by ensuring that all its products are technically accurate, scientifically and ethically sound, and useful to the government and the intended population through the institutionalization of appropriate mechanisms and bodies.

  • The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, otherwise known as the RITM, as a whole, will be a whole body under the CDC. For those who have followed the discussions on RITM and the CDC, sa madaling salita, hindi na po ito chopchop. Take note that the Majority Floor Leader is smiling, is grinning. Hindi na po ito macha-chopchop as was originally presented to us. RITM will still be a whole body, but now under the CDC. So instead of its various divisions being absorbed, RITM as a whole, I repeat, as a whole, will be under the CDC. And RITM, dear colleagues, will now be referred to as the Philippine Research Institute of Medicine. Why? Because RITM stands for Research Institute of Tropical Medicine. We have gone past that, and thus, we need to rename RITM, but given all its accomplishments, we fought very hard for them to be retained as a body.

  • So RITM, now known as Philippine Research Institute of Medicine, shall continue to perform its current functions through its Clinical Research Division, Laboratory Research Division, and Biologics Manufacturing Division; Perform expanded functions involving infectious and non-infectious diseases, specifically on health evidence and health laboratories; Work together with the other centers of the CDC, namely: the Center for Health Statistics; and the Center for Surveillance and Epidemiology.

Through this measure, we aim to adopt a framework that fosters a whole-of-system, whole-of-government, and whole-of-society approach that would streamline science-based decision-making and policy-making, especially during public health emergencies.

The functions of RITM and the other centers were also harmonized with the existing offices and units within the DOH.

Mr. President, globally, nations are scrambling for solutions to end the pandemic and defeat the virus. But COVID is not the only health threat out there.

As Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Sustainable Development Goals, Innovation, and Futures Thinking, it's my duty to ensure that we are on track with our targets under the SDGs, including SDG 3 on Good Health and Well-being.

One of the targets under SDG 3 is to strengthen the capacity of all countries, in particular developing countries, for early warning, risk reduction and management of national and global health risks. This is SDG 3.d.

Now more than ever, we need to invest in our healthcare system to prepare us better for other possible health emergencies, and to help us build a more sustainable future beyond COVID-19.

Dear colleagues, before I end, I'd like to point out that there will be high-level scientists in CDC and many others who will be participating either as consultants, as advisers, and one of the key provisions of this measure is to consider exempting them from the standard salary grades. We all know, and there are enough news reports that tell us and show us how many of our healthcare workers are leaving the country because of the demand and the very lucrative [audio cut] set up home where they want to make a living. But we can do our part, dear colleagues, by strengthening our healthcare systems and improving the benefits we provide for them. And one good way to start, your honor, is through the CDC.

With that, I will give you time to study the measure. We will be providing the body with a briefer, something like FAQs to help digest this very technical bill, and then we will be ready to accept interpellations after the time that you will have to study the measure.

Thank you very much, Mr. President. #

[1] Smitham, E., & Glassman, A. (2021, August 25). The next pandemic could come soon and be deadlier.

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