A lawmaker at the House of Representatives on Wednesday proposed a comprehensive health emergency policy to prepare the country in the face of global health threats.
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda filed House Bill No. 6096, which seeks the creation of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, as a separate agency under the control and supervision of the Department of Health, but with broader policymaking, implementation, surveillance, disease control, and prevention powers.
Salceda noted that the strategic focus of the new agency is rapid and sudden onset health hazards and emerging diseases, principally communicable or infectious diseases.
"Presence of hazards, our increased exposure to such hazards, and the lack of existing mechanisms and capacity to address them emphasize the national imperative for a framework for effective intervention. The quick and decisive intervention will not come from the depths of the bureaucracy," Salceda said.
"There is a need for a high-level public institution imbued with the capacity, the competencies, the ecosystem, and the authority to confront these risks decisively and thus protect the public welfare and enable development to proceed amidst these rising risks," he added.
The Disease Emergency Management Bureau (DEMB) shall be created to calibrate the CDC's response to health emergencies.
Under the proposed DEMB, a National Health Emergency Response Unit (NHERU), composed of well-trained first-responders, shall act as the frontline force in-ground and surveillance operations of the CDC.
"Kung naalala niyo yung mga naka-white (If you remember those wearing white) protective gear during the Ebola crisis, that will be the function of NHERU. Parang special forces natin (They would be our special forces) for disease control and prevention," Salceda said.
The bill also proposes a comprehensive health emergency management framework that includes provisions for vaccination and treatment, isolation and quarantine, and disease surveillance.
Apart from these, the bill also provides for mechanisms for the declaration of the state of a public health emergency, and a coordinating council for the same.
"Naturally, the bill is very broad in scope. But the basic idea is: the current approach, the way we organize ourselves to confront outbreaks will no longer suffice, will not make us safer, will not convince our people to trust public institutions," Salceda said.
He urged Congress to pass a supplemental budget to increase the funding for the DOH's Disease and Prevention Control Bureau to PHP800 million since the legislative body reduced its budget from PHP263 million in 2019 to PHP115 million in 2020.
While the country has no confirmed cases yet of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), the DOH on Tuesday said 24 persons are under investigation for manifesting flu-like symptoms.
The House has summoned Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to attend its question hour on Wednesday to shed light on matters related to the 2019 nCoV, particularly on its preparedness to respond to this emerging public health threat.
Source: Philippines News Agency