House Senior Deputy Speaker and former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo used the recent "Ending Tuberculosis" forum in Davos, Switzerland to highlight her past administration’s success in controlling the deadly disease.
The forum, which took place last Jan. 17 on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF), was sponsored by the Washington Post. Arroyo was one of four panelists on the topic.
"Let me speak from the point of view of being the only politician in this group," Arroyo, Pampanga's 2nd district congresswoman, said at the beginning of her talk. "I was a president who had to deal with tuberculosis."
Although she would "flex" about her administration's successful handling of tuberculosis, she didn't claim all the credit and even recognized the efforts of the Department of Health (DOH) secretary during her time in Malacañang.
"When I first became the president in 2001, we were no.7 in tuberculosis in the world. And I got a public health expert, Manolet Dayrit as my secretary of health. In fact, later he joined WHO (World Health Organization), handling human resources," she said.
"We put together a national tuberculosis program that featured direct, observe, treatment short course or DOTS, and a strong public-private sector partnership (PPP). So tuberculosis prevalence went down during my time.
"Another thing we did was the mandatory testing of children. So we improved our rating somewhat. From no.7, we improved somewhat to no.9," narrated Arroyo.
"But I'm so sorry to learn that some time 10 years later we were no.4, which was worse than the situation I started with...and I asked my secretary of health why," she continued.
"He (Dayrit) said that after our term, he saw that...there was some slippage in the implementation of the tuberculosis program and part of the slippage was, a slippage in the that we used to have together," she said.
"Meaning, later on after our time, the burden of treatment medicines was more with the public sector and role of the private sector became less. When I say that we were no.4, that was 2019, and that's even before Covid. And you can imagine the problems we had when Covid came," Arroyo said.
She noted that the Philippine government had no choice but to focus all its resources against Covid-19 once it reached the country.
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"I’m glad that there is this session because we are focusing again on other things, other issues rather than Covid,” Arroyo said.
She also praised the current Philippine president, Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., for possessing what she called the "political vision" to fight the spread of other diseases, like tuberculosis.
Marcos was an attendee at the WEF, which ran from Jan. 16 to 20.