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RITM neglected for decades for being Marcos-built, says Imee

The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), established almost four decades ago, is having a "gloomy" founding anniversary on Thursday as a result of long years of neglect, Senator Imee Marcos said.

The RITM was inaugurated on April 23, 1981 during the Marcos regime.

"The long neglect of RITM dates back more than 30 years ago when the Cory administration started treating it like a leper, just because it was built by my father, then President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos, through Executive Order No. 674 in 1981," the senator said in a statement.

"The technical cooperation with the Japanese government that helped build and equip the RITM as the country’s prime biomedical research center was pushed aside, erasing its importance in the public mind, and squandering the momentum which could have benefited us today," she said.

The RITM is the leading laboratory in the Philippines for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) testing. As of April 22, it has processed 36,522 out of the over 64,000 individuals who were tested nationwide for the detection of the novel coronavirus.

However, the laboratory had to scale down its operations after 43 of its personnel got infected with COVID-19.

Marcos said RITM could have been better equipped for the COVID-19 crisis had the Department of Health (DOH) given it more attention in the past years.

She said the health officials should have learned from past pandemics that affected the Philippines such as the acute immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

Last month, Marcos filed Senate Bill 1407 which seeks to increase RITM's personnel and their salaries, establish regional centers, and equip it better for future outbreaks. —LDF, GMA News