Albay 2nd District Rep. and House Ways and Means chair Joey Salceda on Sunday, Nov. 27, assured workers at the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine (RITM) that there would be no abolition or layoffs there even after the country’s establishment of its own Center for Disease Control (CDC) inches closer to becoming law.
Abolishing the government research unit, which was at the core of the Philippines’ response to the Covid-19 pandemic, “is not the intention, the objective, the letter, or even the execution of the law.”
Salceda principally authored and sponsored the measure in the 18th Congress, and was the first to propose the creation of the new agency as early as January 2020.
“I don’t know where it comes from but let me categorically say, on record, that the RITM will stay, it will continue to perform most of its functions, and there will be no layoffs,” he said in a statement.
The lawmaker gave the reassurance after workers in the RITM protested recently about possible layoffs with the creation of the CDC.
The charter of the CDC has already been approved by the House Committees on Health, Ways and Means, and Appropriations, and is now ready for deliberations in the House floor.
The measure was a priority of the Duterte administration and was also mentioned in the first State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
READ: DOH: RITM employees to be absorbed under proposed CDC
Instead, Salceda explained that “the CDC will be primarily a national health emergency management, public policy, and research center.”
“The RITM is, and will continue to be, its own research center with a hospital, a testing center, the country’s central reference laboratory, and will continue to perform its existing role over many diseases, including perennial ones like tuberculosis and malaria,” he furthered.
The economist-congressman added that under the CDC, the RITM will be part of a “total disease prevention ecosystem, rather than an island of epidemic prevention under the current health governance structure.”
“Simply put, it will be a tree that’s part of a forest, rather than something more solitary as it currently stands.”
Salceda, who described himself a “champion of the CDC charter,” vowed that Congress “will not defund the RITM because of the new agency.”
“At worse,” the lawmaker said that plantilla units under the RITM may “be relocated to some other unit in the CDC.”
“But no job reduction,” he stressed.
The Senate Committee on Health is also already discussing the CDC bill and Salceda hopes that, as both chambers have started deliberating on the measure early, the agency has a stronger chance of getting enacted this Congress.
“The RITM issue is one of the misconceptions about the bill, and that was a hurdle to its passage in the Senate last time. So, let’s put it to rest,” he said.