House to ask WHO about changes to IHR

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star
House to ask WHO about changes to IHR
A photo taken in the late hours of August 17, 2020 shows a sign of the World Health Organization (WHO).

MANILA, Philippines — Two committees of the House of Representatives will ask the World Health Organizations (WHO) to shed light on the 307 proposed amendments to the International Health Regulations (IHR) which lawmakers fear could infringe on the Philippines’ sovereignty.

The IHR mandates 196 countries, including 194 WHO member-states, to report to the organization all potential public health emergencies.

It was established in 2005 in response to the outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome and avian influenza.

At a joint hearing of the House panels on public order and safety and on human rights on House Resolution 1481 yesterday, lawmakers expressed concerns over the proposed amendments, which would bind the Philippines to WHO policies.

HR 1481 sponsor and committee on public order and safety chair Rep. Dan Fernandez cited in particular the proposed Article 36 on the certificates of vaccination or other prophylaxis.

“That is one of the important salient points. If before we were not bound (to WHO), with this we will be bound. It provides for digital locator forms, which means that we’ll have digital vaccination passport, which is our cellphones, containing our medical profile,” said Fernandez, representative of Sta Rosa City in Laguna.

The lawmaker noted this is “very crucial and worrisome” because everyone’s information would be in a “single digital worldwide network” in the hands of WHO.

Fernandez said that he wanted to invite the WHO to explain the 307 proposed amendments but not in a formal investigation setting.

“I want to give them a chance, if this chance that we are giving is not met by them, then we have to really react,” he added.

Once ratified by one third of WHO member-states, Fernandez warned the certificates would be a “one-world health protocols” that would have to be implemented by the 194 member-states of the organization.

It is expected to be ratified in May and take effect in the same month next year.

The same concern was raised by Abang Lingkod partylist Rep. Joseph Stephen Paduano, who underscored that such a provision would effectively serve as a means to track an individual.

“That policy overrides the Constitution and this is bothersome for me ... What I remember is that sovereignty resides and emanates from the people of the Philippines, not from the policy of WHO,” Paduano added.

Paduano has asked the Department of Health to come up with a position on the amendments so the public would know if such amendments were “acceptable and not detrimental to the Filipinos or the Philippines.”

Health Undersecretary for Public Health Services Eric Tayag has committed to coordinate with the offices concerned in response to Paduano’s request.

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