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RITM to be absorbed into proposed CDC is created by law, says DOH exec

The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine will be absorbed into the new government agency if the bill creating the Center for Disease Control is enacted into law, an official of the Department of Health said on Thursday.

At a Senate hearing on the bill, DOH Disease Prevention and Control Bureau Director Razel Nikka Hao answered in the affirmative when asked if the RITM would be absorbed into the CDC.

Senators Pia Cayetano and Nancy Binay noticed that the proposed Virology and Vaccine Institute of the Philippines had the same “research and manufacturing” mandate as the RITM.

“Mawawala na ‘yung RITM? Tama po ba it will be absorbed?” Binay asked.

”Yes, madam chair. So that totality of the RITM will be retained with the CDC," Hao said.

Cayetano, who was presiding over the hearing on the proposed CDC bill, raised the possible overlap of the VVIP and the RITM.

“I noted na the virology institute says ‘Resarch and Manufacturing Capacity’ eh di ba yun din ang ginagawa ni RITM?” Cayetano asked.

“Kaya kami litong-lito kung ano ba talaga ang binabalak natin sa RITM at sa virology kasi in the hearing of the Committee on Health in-assure kami na walang overlap and okay na ang DOH d’yan but when I look at the general description that is the description of the function of RITM,” Cayetano went on.

Under the CDC structure in DOH’s presentation, Cayetano noticed that the RITM was lodged under the CDC’s center for reference laboratories and center for health evidence.

RITM Director Celia Carlos told the Senate panel that the institute agreed to the proposed setup with their colleagues in the DOH to make the CDC structure “more cohesive.”

“If RITM were to function independently from the proposed CDC, there may be some difficulty in coordination. So the best arrangement is to be part of the CDC, putting ourselves in the appropriate centers where the division functions are mainly related. So that is the proposal,” Carlos said.

Cayetano then asked why a Virology and Vaccine Institute needed to be established if the RITM, which has a similar mandate, will just be absorbed by the CDC.

Carlos explained that the Virology and Vaccine Institute will focus on research of different categories of organisms such as plants, animals, and humans as opposed to the RITM which only concentrates on humans.

The senator further asked why not strengthen the RITM function instead of creating another institute for virology and vaccines.

Carlos reiterated that the RITM's research component is very specific on human diseases which are of public health importance.

In an ambush interview, Cayetano said the Senate subcommittee on health and demography might conduct a technical working group on the bills creating CDC and the Medical Reserve Corps.

“We have to rely on the resource persons to provide us with the technical input. Mukhang prepared naman sila so if they are ready next week to have a [Technical Working Group, TWG] para ma-plantsa nang mas maayos ang bill,” she said.

“Once the bill is seamless, walang butas, I can sponsor it. But I cannot sponsor a bill kung may mga butas-butas. Like if we cannot resolve this issue on the Virology Institute and RITM [overlap in functions], ang hirap na i-defend yun na hindi rin ako clear. So we just need these things resolved, among a few other things. So far, it looks good,” she added. —NB, GMA Integrated News

Tags: news, nation, DOH, RITM, cdc