House legislators call for budgetary guarantees for the proposed virology institute

Government should lose no time in making available the financial requirements for the proposed Virology Science and Technology Institute of the Philippines (VIP) which has been approved on second reading in the House of Representatives.

Airing confidence of a swift approval on final reading of House Bill 9559, authors said the VIP will be in the forefront of the fight against viruses, some of which have devastated the country’s economy and caused the death of thousands of Filipinos

They believe the bill will be passed on third and final reading when session resume next month and will get both Senate and executive department support.

The authors underscored the need for the country to be immediatley equipped with a fully operational virology research agency. The proposed VIP will be an attached agency of the Department of Science and Technology.

HB 9559 consolidated ten separate legislative proposals that will establish the VIP and develop the Philippines’ capability and self-reliance in the field of virology.

Among the authors of the bill are Reps. Leonardo Babasa Jr. (2nd District, Zamboanga del Sur); Ron Salo (Kabayan Partylist) ; Cheryl Deloso-Montalla (2nd District, Zambales); Rufus Rodriguez (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro City) and Angelina Tan (4th District, Quezon).

Tan, chairperson of the House Committee on Health, sponsored the bill that received unanimous approval on second reading before Congress adjourned sine die last week.

Among the functions of the VIP include serving as convener for the formulation of the National Virology Research Agenda. It will be tasked to conduct scientific and technology research in the field of virology.

The institute will also produce research and development strategies in the areas of diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.

"The country needs diagnostic tools and techniques to detec t and limit the spread of the exisitng viruses, vaccines to provide long-term protection, treatments to save lives in the short-term and social science to understand their behavioral and society implications," said Salo.

Babasa said the current 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID 19) outbreak has exposed the weaknesses of the country’s science and research capabilities.

“This is due to very few studies and limited information on viral pathogenesis; risk factors for infection; the natural history of disease including clinical presentation and outcomes; modes and extent of virus inter-human transmissions, effective preventive measures, among others,” he explained.

Deloso-Montalla, chairperson of the house Committee on Revision of Laws, said the proposed institute will be tasked to become the reference laboratory for animal and plant virology studies.

“This will enable our country to be equipped with the knowledge about viral agents in plants and animals and their economic implications to agriculture,” Montalla said.