US-PH complete P1.1-B five-year biological threat capacity-building partnership program

Published June 17, 2021, 8:47 PM

by Roy Mabasa

The Philippines has completed the final phase of the P1.1 billion ($23 million) five-year biological threat capability building partnership program with the United States aimed to strengthen the country’s capacity and capability to detect, diagnose, and report dangerous pathogens.

Left: Newly-constructed Regional Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory III in Tarlac. Right: Department of Agriculture laboratorians participate in Polymerase Chain Reaction Training. (via United States Embassy Manila)

Beginning in September 2016, the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s (DTRA) Biological Threat Reduction Program (BTRP) and the Philippines’ Department of Agriculture (DA) collaborated to build or renovate seven Regional Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratories (RADDLs) in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

Under the program, the Philippine counterparts were able to participate in 15 bio-safety and security courses, 26 quality management courses, four table-top exercises, 27 laboratory staff workshops, and support to the Regional Institute of Tropical Medicine through equipment fielding and training.

The BTRP-DA partnership included extensive disease surveillance and laboratory security and safety training aimed at increasing the Philippines’ biological threat reduction capacity and capability. The partnership also addressed several emerging challenges within the agriculture sector, including detection and surveillance of Avian Influenza and African Swine Fever (ASF).

BTRP chief Dr. Ada Bacetty expressed her satisfaction over what the partnership has achieved since 2016. “Now that the Philippine government is operating these labs at full capacity, we look forward to the next opportunity to work with our critical Philippine friends, partners, and allies.”

These labs are a central line of defense against dangerous pathogens affecting agriculture, including those with the potential to affect humans.

DA Undersecretary for Livestock William Medrano said the desired outcome of the BSS (Bio-Safety and Security) project was “fulfilled”.

“We were able to modernize some laboratories and we were able to institutionalize quality management, which is very important when you manage laboratories. We’d like to express our sincere thanks to DTRA for recognizing the Philippines as their partner for this very important and noble project on BSS.”

Both the BTRP and the Philippines are eyeing future collaborations to expand their partnership foundation to include the human health sector.