The government has already approved the P295.7 million budget for the expansion of operations of the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) in Visayas and Mindanao, the Department of Health (DOH) said.
With this development, the DOH said that it is “now closer to strengthening the country’s biosurveillance capacity.”
DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III on Friday, Aug. 27, said that whole genome sequencing is vital to the country’s COVID-19 response.
“We will continue to assist the UP-PGC in any way we can. Additionally, we could not have done this without the help of the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) who is kind enough to provide us with this budget,” he said in a statement.
“By strengthening the country’s biosurveillance capacity, we hope to prevent future outbreaks of diseases in the Philippines,” he added.
PGC said it can sequence 750 COVID-19 positive samples in a week to determine the variants of concern. However, “logistical limitations pose a challenge for regions to regularly send their samples to Manila,” the DOH said.
“The availability of the highly-technical equipment and tools for the whole genome sequencing in Visayas and Mindanao is beneficial for the regions’ current COVID-19 response and for surveillance of other diseases,” it said.
The DOH said that the whole genome sequencing is important as it is being used to detect presence of new variants in the country, if the variants are causing the spikes in cases in certain areas, and if there are already local transmissions of the variants.
“Aside from detecting COVID-19 variants, genomic biosurveillance plays a big role in determining causes of outbreaks, tracking how a virus is transmitted, and complementing disease surveillance in guiding the overall public health response even beyond the COVID-19 pandemic,” it said.