Lawmaker eyes creation of PH disease prevention and control center

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 29) — Amid the global spread of the novel coronavirus, a lawmaker is seeking the creation of a disease prevention and control center in the Philippines.

Albay Rep. Joey Salceda filed Wednesday House Bill 6096 creating the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Act of 2020.

“This bill would make the country better prepared for what this proposal calls ‘sudden onset health emergencies’ or those emergencies whose risk exponential increase over time, absent any intervention,” Salceda said in his explanatory note.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention that will be created will absorb communicable disease units in a newly established Communicable Disease Prevention Bureau. It will also absorb the Disease Emergency Management Bureau, the Epidemiology Bureau of the Department of Health and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, according to the bill.

The functions of the center include active surveillance of diseases through epidemiologic and laboratory investigations, data collection, analysis and distribution; developing operational programs relating to communicable diseases; conducting operational research aimed at developing communicable disease prevention; and recommending the exercise of certain powers by the President in the case of an epidemic.

The measure also grants broader quarantine powers to the Health Secretary and authorizes local government units to use calamity funds during a state of health emergency.

The center will be headed by an executive director who will be appointed by the President, with the rank of an undersecretary to manage and direct activities and advise the Health Secretary on policy matters.

“Our lack of institutional capacity to implement comprehensive public health management programs, as well as the present orientation of border law enforcement towards prevention of human trafficking and smuggling, but not towards public health protection, stymies the country’s ability to decisively address the risks of communicable disease,” Salceda added.

The House of Representatives will be summoning Health Secretary Francisco Duque III for a “question hour” later in the day to respond to queries on the novel coronavirus and shed light on the Health Department’s measures surrounding the issue.

“Ang tingin namin, the more that the experts answer directly, the less na maniniwala sa fake news (we think that the more that the experts answer directly, the lesser tendency for the public to believe in fake news),” Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano told the media in a chance interview.

“‘Yung question hour will allow representatives of the people to ask directly…It’s not just a report. It’s knowing what to do. So kung may suspected case sa ating mga lugar, hindi naman lahat [ng distrito] ay may isolation room, may modernized na hospital (so if there are suspected cases in our area, not all districts have an isolation room or a modernized hospital). So that’s the reason why we’re going to have it today,” he added.

As of Wednesday noon, at least 5,974 cases of coronavirus have been reported in mainland China, exceeding that of the 5,327 confirmed cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2002 and 2003, CNN reported.