Press Release
May 8, 2021

Bong Go pushes measures to fill gaps in pandemic response and strengthen gov't preparedness for public health emergencies

Senator and Chair of the Senate Committee on Health Christopher "Bong" Go during a hearing on Thursday, May 6, pushed for a set of measures which aim to strengthen the country's epidemic preparedness and response to COVID-19 by addressing the gaps and weaknesses in the health care system.

In a speech delivered before the Committee on Health, Go acknowledged the need to expand the capacity of the health care system in order to address the still high number of COVID-19 cases in the National Capital Region and its surrounding provinces.

However, he also highlighted the important role played by the frontline medical workers and noted the need to expand the country's health workforce in light of the enormous pressures it is currently facing.

"Ngayong pandemya, problema natin ang kakulangan natin sa hospital beds, particularly [intensive care unit] 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 health care workers," began Go.

"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 [also] exhausted because of the number of patients," he continued.

The Senator also expressed his profound gratitude to the medical frontliners and volunteers for their service to the nation as the country celebrates Health Workers' Day this May 7th.

He especially praised the many Visayan medical frontliners who volunteered to be deployed to Metro Manila to help augment the region's medical personnel and support the local pandemic response.

"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," said Go.

"Walang katumbas ang sakripisyo ninyo para malampasan natin ang pandemyang ito. The entire nation owes you a debt of gratitude that cannot be repaid," he added.

To bolster the country's medical personnel and address staff shortages, Go filed Senate Bill No. 1451 in April 2020 which seeks to establish a Medical Reserve Corps composed of individuals who have degrees in health-related fields but have yet to obtain professional licenses.

"Even [President Rodrigo Duterte], 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," he explained.

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

Taking this one step further, the Senator also filed SBN 2158 on Tuesday, May 4, which seeks to establish a Center for Disease Control and Prevention to serve as the principal agency tasked with controlling the spread of infectious diseases and developing and implementing communicable disease control and prevention initiatives.

"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," said Go.

He stressed the need for a comprehensive approach and multi-disciplinary preparedness plans to prevent or contain the emergence of pandemic and epidemic diseases.

By reorganizing and strengthening the country's health units committed to preventing and controlling communicable diseases, Go expressed confidence that the government will be better prepared to deal with any public health emergency in the future.

"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," he appealed.

Several other measures seeking to strengthen the country's pandemic response were also discussed during the hearing. They included SBN 1527 and 1592 which similarly seek to create a Medical Reserve Corps. The bills were authored by Senators Pia Cayetano and Imee Marcos, respectively.

Senate Bills 1450 and 1440, authored by Senators Grace Poe and Richard Gordon, respectively, also provide for the establishment of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Meanwhile, SBN 1443, 1444, 1922 and 1801 seek to establish an inter-agency council or task force to respond to public health emergencies. The measures were authored by Senators Cayetano, Emmanuel Pacquiao, Nancy Binay and Risa Hontiveros.

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