MANILA, Philippines — Authorities are eyeing the suspension of the regulatory power of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and some provisions of the Data Privacy Act (DPA) during the COVID-19 pandemic to improve government response to emergencies, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said yesterday.
Lacson said the idea was raised during the May 6 meeting among officials of the legislative and executive branches led by Senate President Vicente Sotto III, vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., contact tracing czar and Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong and testing czar Vince Dizon.
Lacson said the proposal on the suspension of FDA regulatory power and DPA provisions might be included among the provisions of the Bayanihan 3, which is now being discussed in Congress.
He said immediate legislative actions will be made against red tape in the FDA that hamper government efforts against COVID-19.
“If they are not suspended nothing will happen because they say there are 26 requirements in the FDA. The hands of the FDA are also tied because of the law. If the suspension becomes effective, maybe we can make it permanent,” said Lacson in Filipino and English in an interview over dwIZ.
“Tito and I had a good meeting with three czars last night to discuss red tape issues and the funding needs hounding the country’s fight against COVID,” Lacson posted on his Twitter account.
Lacson said the suspension of the DPA will address the difficulty being encountered by contact tracing czar Magalong.
Lacson also said the three czars suggested to make the meeting monthly, to be able to give updates and resolve issues.
“To me, the informal meeting is even more effective. The atmosphere is a bit relaxed. They can say what they want to say, no transcript, no media,” said Lacson, noting that Magalong and Galvez being fellow cavaliers is an advantage.
He noted that other senators are welcome to attend the meeting.
Lacson said while the Senate is waiting for the Bayanihan 3 version of the House of Representatives, senators are preparing their respective amendments. He added that Senate President Sotto and Speaker Lord Allan Velasco and other House leaders might also have informal discussions and agreements on its passage without having to do a bicameral conference.
He added that other issues discussed include the P90 billion needed for next year’s vaccine procurement budget, which was proposed to be included in the regular budget of the Department of Health. “This is to be itemized for vaccines, instead of putting it under the Unprogrammed Fund, thus ensuring its availability.”
“The P20 billion for this year’s vaccine procurement under Bayanihan 3, which I suggested to try first to be realigned from the unused appropriations of several executive agencies as it is allowed under the Constitution, as well as the extended effectivity of the Bayanihan law already passed,” he noted.
Meanwhile, Lacson added that the business sector made a commitment to make available spaces in malls and hotel ballrooms for some 5,000 vaccination centers, 1,200 of which are in the NCR which can inoculate some 58 million Filipinos by year-end – assuming that enough doses will arrive as scheduled, which they said they are pursuing around the clock.
“In the meantime, continuous simulations are being done to ensure efficiency at the proper time. With a proper budget and lots of help from the business sector and LGUs, herd immunity may yet still be achieved. Cooperation is key,” he said.