Pandemic highlights need for virology institute, food banks — solon

A solon’s proposed measure, if it becomes law, will establish the country’s virology institute and create food banks in every city and municipality to address food insecurity and involuntary hunger.

(Photo by Natalia Kolesnikova / AFP / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

For Biñan City Rep. Marlyn ‘Len’ Alonte, also the chair of the House Committee on Ecology, the Covid-19 pandemic taught a lesson about the importance of understanding viruses and having the means to produce a vaccine for it, as well as the food insecurity and hunger that became its by-products.

“Both bills contain and represent lessons learned from the Covid pandemic wherein we faced the coronavirus and the resulting hunger and poverty from community quarantines. The food bank bill also includes lessons from continuing incidents of food wastage due to oversupply, overharvests, poor farming planning, and supply chain issues,” Alonte said.

House Bill No. 3692, or the “Food Bank Regulations Act,” has been filed in the House of Representatives to address involuntary hunger and food insecurity that continue to be the concern of the United Nations in the country.

“This bill aims to create food banks in every city and municipality to provide a system of redistributing and recycling of food surplus, promote food security and achieve zero hunger,” the bill’s explanatory note, a copy of which was sent to the media, said.

The country’s aim to achieve Goal No. 2, or ending hunger, in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development had been stalled because of the pandemic, Alonte lamented.

She cited a mid-2021 survey of the Social Weather Station (SWS) that reported around 3.4 million Filipino families have gone hungry, which is much higher than the pre-pandemic years.

HB 3692 would seek to maintain a food bank in every city and municipality “for the collection, storage and delivery of edible food waste and the recycling of inedible food wastes.”

The bill also introduced a food-waste reduction strategy wherein food-related businesses will segregate edible food surplus and inedible food wastes for the benefit of food banks.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), which will work with the National Nutrition Council (NNC), would provide the criteria for the “determination of the food insecure person or group of persons.”

Even households must work with local government units (LGUs) to initiate waste segregation and produce fertilizer from the process.

Meanwhile, Alonte has also filed HB 3693 for the establishment of a Virology and Vaccine Institute.

READ: DOST expresses support for Marcos’ commitment to establish PH Virology and Vaccine Institute

In the bill’s explanatory note, the lawmaker said the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of medical experts in the battle against viruses, and noted how virologists helped track the cause and spread of the virus.

“It is therefore imperative for the Philippines to establish a dedicated research institute that dives into the in-depth study of viruses-including how to diagnose, manage, and prevent viral infections-and vaccines. We've already seen how essential medical frontliners, virologists included, are in saving lives and reducing the economic impact of a global pandemic caused by a virus,” it added.

The proposed institute will be under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), and will be composed of the following divisions: Virology Research,

Diagnostics and Statistics Research, Vaccines Research, Technical Services and Training, Policy, Planning, and Relations, and Finance and Administration.