By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Lawmakers cited on Saturday (May 2) the urgency for Congress to enact legislation that would strengthen the government’s response against any pandemic.
Rep. Precious Hipolito-Castelo (Quezon City 2nd district) said she will file a measure that would ensure funding for the promotion of effective government research that would help prevent any health crisis from occurring in the future.
“I will be filing the Pandemic Preparedness Bill, a bill that would not only institutionalize preparedness and prevention of any pandemic but also allocate funds for research and development of a cure and vaccine of any form of virus,” she said in a text message.
Castelo said her proposal will not be in conflict with the measure that seeks the creation of the Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR) being pushed by the House leadership.
“My proposal would zero in on virus and contagion whilst the DDR creation is for calamities and disasters,” she said.
When asked about her proposed funding for the research, she said, “as for the budget, Congress may determine (this) through the economic managers.”
“We hope the President will certify this as urgent to avoid the unfortunate experience we have now,” Castelo said.
In a separate text message, Bataan 1st district Rep. Geraldine Roman rallied behind Castelo’s initiative, citing the need for Congress to push for the passage of the Pandemic Preparedness Bill.
“The (late Senator) Miriam Defensor Santiago once proposed a similar measure,” she noted.
“Influenza pandemics have occurred throughout history and will continue to break out in the future. So we have to be prepared by learning our lessons from this crisis. We in Congress have been pushing for the establishment of a Department of Disaster Resiliency for a more rapid, coordinated and effective response (that would) educate the public on how to minimize the effects of a future epidemic,” Roman said.
Deputy Speaker and ABONO partylist Rep. Conrado Estrella III said the current pandemic situation should prod government to allot more funds for the promotion of medical research.
“I will strongly support any proactive move of the government especially pertaining to the health crisis at hand. Medical research will be costly but is truly necessary,” he said in a text message.
He said the funding of medical research can be sourced from the budget of other agencies and that the defense funding should not be spent for such purpose.
“I am more inclined to look into the budget of other agencies for funding requirements. We are faced with both external and internal threats up to now. Let’s leave alone the defense budget,” Estrella said.