The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved on second reading a bill establishing the Philippine Center for Disease Control, one of the priority measures of the Marcos administration.
House Bill 6522, which was approved through a voice vote, grants the CDC the technical authority on all matters regarding disease prevention and control by performing the following functions:
- providing technical guidance to the development of policies, programs, standards, guidelines, and monitoring and evaluation systems on the forecasting, prevention, monitoring, and control of diseases, injuries, and disabilities both of national and international concern;
- setting standards and the process for the establishment of Epidemiology and Surveillance Units or its corresponding surveillance reporting units, pursuant to law
- providing quality assurance programs to ensure the quality of testing for laboratories;
- recommending to the President, through the Department of Health (DOH), Secretary, the declaration of a state or public health emergency, in case of an epidemic of national or international concern
- developing, implementing, and maintaining training programs on specialized fields such as field epidemiology, health emergency of biological concern, laboratory services, infectious and tropical diseases, and non-communicable diseases
- providing technical assistance and expert services to DOH offices
- developing, implementing, and maintaining an integrated surveillance system of diseases, injuries, and disabilities;
- providing technical guidance on the development, implementation and maintenance, and monitoring of health system capacity such as operational capacities of health facilities, and performance management of the response systems in terms of contact tracing, quarantine, isolation, and other significant population-based health services
- investigating and responding, through surveillance and disease notification, and conduct of field studies and research to outbreaks, epidemics, and other public health threats as the need arises
- developing and maintaining a network of public health laboratories in support of epidemiology and surveillance activities, among others.
The bill also proposed the following DOH units to be under the jurisdiction of the CDC:
- Epidemiology Bureau
- Research Institute for Tropical Medicine
- Sexually Transmitted Disease - Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome Cooperative
- Central Laboratory
- Select functions of the International Health Surveillance Division of the Bureau of Quarantine, such as passive international health surveillance, the development of communication methods for wider and more effective delivery of critical public health information of international importance, and the technical and standard-setting functions of the Disease Prevention and Control Bureau, including those of the Mental Health Division, the Cancer Division, and the Oral Health Division.
The CDC, however, will still be under the jurisdiction of the DOH.
The authors of the bill, namely, Speaker Martin Romualdez of Leyte, Yedda Romualdez and Jude Acidre of the Tingog party-list, Mikaela Suansing of Nueva Ecija, and Horacio Suansing, Jr. of Sultan Kudarat, said that this will modernize the country's capabilities for public health emergency preparedness and strengthen the current bureaucracy.
“Outbreaks, particularly the sudden rise of COVID-19 cases in 2020, highlighted the government's lack of preparedness and capability in our public health units to effectively prevent and control the spread of communicable and infectious diseases,” the bill stated.
“The proposed measure seeks to advance two essential initiatives: health modernization and institutional reforms to protect the public from health risks,” it added.
The same bill was approved by the House on its third and final reading during the 18th Congress but failed to move forward in the Senate. — VBL, GMA Integrated News