Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, chairman of the Senate Health and Demography Committee, on Monday, March 14 hailed the contributions of Filipino genomic sequencing experts in the fight against Covid-19 during the recent launch of the University of the Philippines-Philippine Genome Center (UP-PGC) Visayas in Iloilo City and the UP-PGC Mindanao in Davao City.
The initiative led by UP-PGC and the Department of Health (DOH), in coordination with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), aims to expand the country’s biosurveillance capacity.
Genomic sequencing lets scientists understand how viruses evolve as they spread, leading to a more efficient and effective response.
“I am truly glad to join you today to witness the launching of UP-Philippine Genome Centers VisMin. Importante ito dahil gusto natin maging handa sa anumang posibilidad katulad ng pagsulpot ng mga bagong [Covid-19] variants (This is important because we want to be prepared on the possible outbreak of new Covid-19 variants),’’ Go, who attended the event virtually, said in his remarks.
“We must remain vigilant and focused on preventing another outbreak in addition to addressing the urgent needs facing our people,” he continued.
The senator from Davao went on to note that President Duterte has placed high importance on science-related endeavors in the country.
Go has persistently appealed for the passage of a bill that seeks to establish the Virology Science and Technology Institute of the Philippines (VIP).
Filed by Go in 2021, Senate Bill (SB) 2155 seeks to boost the country’s ability to develop vaccines against highly pathogenic emerging viruses.
The bill, most notably, provides guidelines for the establishment and operation of testing, reference and biosafety Levels 1, 2, 3 and 4 research laboratories throughout the country.
“Understanding the genetic changes in viral genome is a prerequisite for a strong public health response to emerging and reemerging viral diseases. We must continue to pursue investments in health research initiatives, such as the genome sequencing program of the UP-PGC,” emphasized Go.
He also filed SB 2158 which establishes the Philippine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC shall serve as the lead agency for developing communicable disease control and prevention initiatives. It will be primarily responsible for controlling the introduction and spread of infectious diseases in the Philippines.
Go then thanked the scientific and medical communities for their hard work during the pandemic.
He touted the plummeting rate of daily Covid-19 infections as a demonstration of the success of the vaccination program and other health and safety measures being implemented.
“Before I end, I also want to take this opportunity to congratulate and commend everyone as we see a decreasing trend of new Covid cases. Patunay ito na ginagawa ni Pangulong Duterte at ng buong gobyerno ang lahat ng makakaya nito para masugpo at malampasan natin ang pandemyang ito (This goes to show that President Duterte and the national government did all they could in fighting this epidemic),” Go said.
Go also called for continued cooperation between the government and various sectors of society in order to beat the virus in 2022. He reiterated his unwavering support for frontliners and other essential workers, without whom healthcare provision would not be possible.
The ceremony was also witnessed by DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III, DOST Secretary Fortunato Dela Peña, UP President Danilo Concepcion, PGC Executive Director Dr. Cynthia Saloma, Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas, and Davao de Oro Governor Jayvee Tyron Uy.