Marcos pushes anew for bills creating virology, disease control centers

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Marcos pushes anew for bills creating virology, disease control centers
President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. gestures as he addresses reporters during a press briefing at the Heroes Hall in Malacañang, Tuesday, July 5, 2022. He met the press following the first meeting of his Cabinet.
Robertson Niñal

MANILA, Philippines — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Thursday pushed for the passage of measures creating a virology institute and a disease control center even as he urged health researchers to continue exchanging information due to the evolving nature of COVID-19.

Speaking during the celebration of the 15th Philippine national health research system week in Pampanga, Marcos said the virology institute would allow the country to better consolidate research, knowledge sources and new data related to the pandemic.

He added that the disease control center would make the Philippines ready for future pandemics as the present one may not be the last "at least not in our lifetimes."

"We have been in consultation with the House of Representatives and the Senate to bring these — to create these agencies so that we can bring them to bear in what we are up to now continuing to have to fight," the president said.

"We will continue to work so that our people are safer, so that our citizens have better access to healthcare and so that...the quality of our healthcare will improve," he added.

Measures seeking to create the Virology Institute of the Philippines and a disease control center are included in Marcos' 19 priority bills.

Marcos, who has caught COVID-19 twice, said openness of mind and the continuing flow of information among different agencies have become critical, given that the virus is mutating.

"All of these things just — have kept coming at us. It has gotten to the point where I always — I’m hesitant to say we are at the tail end of the pandemic. Every time I say that, there’s a new surge," Marcos said.

"The first meeting that Usec. Vergeire and I had, I said, 'It seems that it is now over. It seems that we are at the tail end of the pandemic.' And here we come again with a new variant of coronavirus...of Omicron that now we have to deal with, that you have to genome sequence again, that we have to find a booster so that the people are fully immunized," he added.


Marcos said the present health crisis has exposed the vulnerability of Filipinos and has prodded authorities to devise efficient responses and mechanisms.
"That is why I believe we continue to remain open to these new ideas and commit to work together," he said.

"And I suppose it is different when we talk about hard science and primary research, like what you are doing now, because we are still at primary research when it comes to the pandemic. So we must really be very wary of getting fixed and say this is what it is. Because we know, it evolves, it mutates. And after a couple of months, it is not what it is any longer."

According to Marcos, health researchers have demonstrated intellectual humility and have remained open to gaining new insights and knowledge.
"We have no choice because we cannot judge — we cannot measure this pandemic by any other human experience. And that is why we have to be very open and understand and say no, it is not something we already know, it is something that we very much do not know,” he added.

Marcos thanked health researchers for helping the government handle the pandemic and for providing information that saved lives. He recalled that when he contracted COVID-19 two years ago, there was (a) lack of knowledge about the nature of the disease.

"But as you remember in that period of time, we were bereft of any science. I remember it was the first time in my life that I had experienced the thought that because we have become used to the medical care that we are always receiving, and whatever happens, the doctor will tell you, 'Okay, we know what it is. We will tell you this is what you will do. And in a certain amount of time, you will be better.' And all through our lives that is exactly what happened," the president said.

"For the first time in our experience, I asked the doctor and I said, 'What’s happening?' And then he said, 'I don’t know.' 'What are you going to do to cure me?' 'We don’t know.' That is the situation that we were in. There was a total lack of information, of knowledge about this new pandemic," he added.

Marcos said while health researchers are not in hospitals, they are still at the forefront of the fight against the pandemic because of the data and studies they put together.

"It is nothing less than having you have helped to keep millions of people alive. There is nothing more heroic in my mind than what you have achieved," he added.


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