A member of the House of Representatives on Friday expressed optimism on the swift passage of the bill creating the Center for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC.
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said he hoped for the passage of House Bill 6096 soon after the committee on health's teleconference talks over it.
He filed the bill in January 2020 just as the Coronavirus Disease 2019 was starting to spread globally.
The proposal, which served as the basis for the subsequent proposals by other members of the House, was identified by President Rodrigo Duterte as a priority bill in his State-of-the-Nation Address in July.
Salceda filed the bill on Jan. 29, in anticipation of the COVID-19 outbreak in the Philippines. He also laid out frameworks for quarantine, contact tracing and disease surveillance in the bill that he said could be adopted and applied.
When asked when the bill is likely to be approved by the committee, Salceda said “this will most likely be fast-tracked, considering the broad consensus of my colleagues and the President’s explicit pronouncement that we need this bill.”
One of the salient features of the bill is the introduction of “the concept of the sudden onset of health emergencies,” Salceda said.
"I came up with this proposal after studying international best practices, most notably those in China, Australia and the United
States. This bill, of course, contextualizes these practices in the Philippine situation."
Duterte had called for the creation of the agency "to better prepare for pandemics, protect lives and allow development to proceed even in the worst of times. We are counting on the full support of Congress for this critically important endeavor."
The center, once created, will likely be a separate agency supervised by the Health Emergency Coordinating Council led by the secretary of Health. Salceda believes this structure would ensure that rapid-response actions were not hampered by bureaucratic processes.
“There are health crises where cases have the potential to escalate in numbers and scope very quickly, and where coordinated efforts at containment and treatment are required immediately,” Salceda said.
“That will often include law enforcement, community management and a whole swathe of other disciplines. Clearly, that’s not just a doctor’s specialty anymore. So you need a more holistic public health preparedness and response framework.”
Salceda’s bill, which has 167 co-authors in the House, contains the following provisions:
• Creation of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention as an agency under the supervision of the Health department, but with broader policymaking, implementation, surveillance, disease control and prevention powers over communicable or infectious diseases;
• Separation of the Disease Control and Prevention Bureau of the Health department, with the CDC absorbing communicable disease units in a newly established Communicable Disease Prevention Bureau;
• Absorption of the Epidemiology Bureau and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine into the CDC. This would strengthen the CDC’s disease control and prevention capacity;
• Creation of the Disease Emergency Management Bureau to calibrate the CDC’s response to health emergencies.
• The grant of broader quarantine powers to the secretary of Health and the CDC;
• Creation of the Health Emergency Coordination Council, which will coordinate the national government response to health emergencies and declare the existence of a state of health emergency;
• Authorization for the LGUs to use calamity funds during a state of health emergency;
• Broad health emergency powers to the HECC and the CDC, including a redefinition of the relationship between the CDC and the Bureau of Quarantine during health emergencies;
• A comprehensive health emergency management framework, including provisions for vaccination and treatment, isolation and quarantine and disease surveillance;
• The creation of a National Health Emergency Response Unit under the DEMB, which will act as the frontline force in the ground and surveillance operations of the CDC. This will be a well-trained unit of first-responders;
• A comprehensive framework for tracking public health emergencies;
• A mandate for the Secretary of Foreign Affairs and the Secretary of Health to recommend beneficial agreements on the exchange of health information with international organizations and other countries.