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Bill creating virology institute passes 3rd reading

Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star
Bill creating virology institute passes 3rd reading
Speaker Martin Romualdez hailed the approval of House Bill 6452 and thanked the authors, as well as those who supported the measure, which will put up the proposed Virology and Vaccine Institute of the Philippines.
STAR / Boy Santos, file

MANILA, Philippines — A total of 216 lawmakers voted yesterday to approve on third and final reading the re-filed bill that would pave the way for the establishment of a virology institute to spearhead the country’s defense health system against pandemics.

Speaker Martin Romualdez hailed the approval of House Bill 6452 and thanked the authors, as well as those who supported the measure, which will put up the proposed Virology and Vaccine Institute of the Philippines (VIP).

“What we learned from the last pandemic is that if a health crisis is in a scale that crosses international borders, we have to act fast and rely on our own resources. We need to respond to it effectively,” the Leyte congressman said.

“A virology and vaccine institute can help us stop a deadly virus in its tracks,” Romualdez added, as he looked forward to the facility whose mandate is to “focus on the key science and technology applications in the development of vaccines for viruses and other pathogens.”

His wife, Rep. Yedda Marie, and Rep. Jude Acidre, both of Tingog party-list, are authors of the proposed law, along with Rep. Joey Salceda, chairman of the ways and means committee of the House.

Quezon Representative Keith Micah D.L. Tan, one of the principal authors of the bill, hailed the approval of the measure, saying, “The creation of the VIP is intended to make the Philippines become globally competitive in the field of science and technology, particularly in virology in terms of detecting, identifying and responding to viruses that affect our people and resources.”

For his part, Salceda expressed hope that “since we approved it in the House early, there is enough time in the Senate to get it done this time around,” owing to the fact that the same bill was approved in the 18th Congress.

The institute will be a research center for the study of viruses, how the government can respond to them and how they can be used for different purposes.

Salceda said the institute aims to be the country’s serum institute.

“India continues to be one of the world’s largest manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines even if it did not originate from them, because they have a serum institute. Vietnam solved ASF (African swine flu) first because their serum institute invented a vaccine early on,” the Bicolano lawmaker said.

Salceda explained that the vaccine institute is not merely a health institute.

“The applications for virology are immense and broad. Food security, forest management and the development of a strong pharmaceutical sector all benefit from a strong grasp of viruses,” he said.

He said “a campus is now ready for the VIP in Clark, where they will be a key feature.”

The VIP will create a state-of-the-art virology laboratory in New Clark City, which can create vaccines and serums and conduct research and projects on plant and animal viruses, on top of human viral diseases.

“These measures will make our health system more resilient. The capacity of a country to contain epidemics depends on its institutional capacity above everything else. If we have strong and resilient disease control and management institutions, we can weather global pandemic events more strongly,” Salceda said. – Michelle Zoleta

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