Duque asks Congress to pass bill creating PH Centers for Disease Control

MANILA, Philippines – Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told Congress Thursday, April 16, that the raging battle against the coronavirus pandemic is the best reason to pass a bill creating the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the Philippines.

The Department of Health (DOH) chief made the appeal as the health cluster of the House Defeat COVID-19 committee held a virtual technical working group meeting on Thursday, April 16. 

“I understand Congressman [Joey] Salceda has made mention of this in his interviews… It would be best to really, given the COVID, the evolving COVID situation, it is opportune really, for Congress to craft a legislation establishing the Philippine Center for Disease Control,” Duque said.  

Duque was referring to House Bill No. 6096 filed by Albay 2nd District Representative Joey Salceda, who proposed creating a CDC in the Philippines patterned after the widely-known agency of the same name in the United States. (READ: Is it time for PH to have its own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention?) 

The US CDC conducts critical research on both communicable and non-communicable diseases – from malaria and tuberculosis to diabetes and cancer.  The US CDC also has sophisticated laboratories with a biosafety level grade of 4. This means its laboratories are capable of handling pathogens that cause hemorrhagic fevers like the Marburg virus and the Ebola virus. 

On Thursday, Duque also urged House members to file a counterpart measure of Senator Richard Gordon’s Senate Bill No. 1347, which would allow the government to stockpile on crucial supplies needed in times of disasters even beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, including personal protective equipment (PPE)

"The very solid recommendation [for a] legislative measure that Congress may want to explore... is PPE manufacturing, not just in times of epidemic but perhaps even in times of non-epidemics. There is a bill that has been filed by Senator Gordon," Duque said.

"I would like to suggest very strongly that the House does a counterpart bill in institutionalizing and ensuring the supplies of PPEs as well as other pandemic or epidemic supplies, to really ramp up the country’s capacity to mount an effective response against COVID-19,” he added.

The Philippine government has drawn flak for sorely mismanaging the spread of COVID-19, which has so far infected 5,660 people in the country. The Philippines was described as among the riskiest countries to be in during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a recent analysis of global pandemic data.

Administration-allied senators already called for Duque’s resignation, but President Rodrigo Duterte continues to trust the embattled DOH secretary.  

Duque admitted he was hurt by the senators’ move against him, but he respects their opinion and said he would “continue to serve at the pleasure of the President.” – Rappler.com 

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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