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House passes bills creating virology institute, disease control center

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star
House passes bills creating virology institute, disease control center
Congressmen unanimously passed House Bill 9599 or the proposed Virology Institute of the Philippines (VIP) Act via a vote of 198-0 with no abstention.
STAR / Boy Santos, file

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives has again delivered swiftly on the legislative agenda of the Duterte administration.

Just two days after Duterte’s State of the Nation Address, the lower chamber has passed two of the remaining priority measures laid down by the President.

In session last Wednesday afternoon, the House under Speaker Lord Allan Velasco approved on third and final reading the bills creating a virology institute and a center for disease prevention.

Congressmen unanimously passed House Bill 9599 or the proposed Virology Institute of the Philippines (VIP) Act via a vote of 198-0 with no abstention.

The measure aims to create the VIP as a venue for scientists, research institutes and other groups in the country and abroad for collaborative studies on viruses.

The institute would be an attached agency of the Department of Science and Technology while its offices, research facilities and laboratories would be located at the New Clark Economic Zone in Tarlac.

“The biosafety infrastructure shall be designed based on risk assessment standards and guidelines of the WHO for handling specific pathogens and the establishment of virology laboratories in developing countries,” read the bill.

On the other hand, the House voted 193-6 with no abstention to also pass HB 9560 or the proposed Philippine Center for Disease Prevention and Control Act.

The bill seeks to establish a Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), similar to that in the United States.

Among its functions would be to recommend to the president, through the health secretary, the declaration of a state of public health emergency in the event of epidemics of national and global concern.

The CDC would also be tasked to develop and maintain an integrated surveillance system of diseases, injuries and disabilities.

Once signed into law, it would see several units under the Department of Health transferred to its helm, such as the epidemiology bureau and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

The measure also seeks to establish local CDCs in the regions, which would all be under one director general with the rank of undersecretary.

Velasco lauded his colleagues for the swift passage of the priority measures, which would better equip the Philippines in research and in managing future health crises.

“COVID-19 will not be the last pandemic and global health emergency, so we need to be prepared to deal with the next one,” the Speaker stressed.

“These legislative measures that we passed today will help the country to better prepare for and respond to future outbreaks effectively,” added the Marinduque congressman.

In the past five years, the House has been consistent in swiftly passing priority legislative measures of the Duterte administration.

Some of these bills, however, have been stuck in the Senate.

Apart from the two SONA measures, the House also passed HB 9456 or the proposed Health Procurement and Stockpiling Act that would allow government to stockpile, conserve and facilitate the supply and distribution of pharmaceuticals and vaccines for public health emergencies.

The measure seeks to create a Health Procurement and Stockpiling Bureau under the Department of Health.

In the same session, the chamber approved on third and final reading seven other bills of national significance. These include HB 9147 regulating the production and use of single-use plastics; HB 9171 which imposes a P20 excise tax for every kilogram of plastic bags from place of production or released from the custody of Bureau of Customs, and HB 7407 institutionalizing the participation of civil society organizations in the annual budget process.

BILL HOUSE
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