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RITM won't be dissolved under Senate version of CDC bill

The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine will no longer be dissolved upon the creation of the proposed Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Senator Pia Cayetano disclosed this as she sponsored Senate Bill 1869 containing Committee Report 28 during Monday's plenary session.

"The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, otherwise known as the RITM, as a whole, will be a whole body under the CDC. For those who have followed the discussions on RITM and the CDC, sa madaling salita, hindi na po ito chopchop," Cayetano said in her sponsorship speech.

The senator emphasized this salient provision of the proposed law as she recalled that the Department of Health's original proposal was to dissolve the RITM and transfer various  functions of the agency to the proposed CDC.

Instead of its various divisions being absorbed, Cayetano said RITM as a whole will be under the CDC and it will be called the Philippine Research Institute of Medicine (PRIM).

Under the Senate version, the PRIM shall continue to perform its current functions through its Clinical Research Division, Laboratory Research Division, and Biologics Manufacturing Division; perform expanded functions involving infectious and non-infectious diseases, specifically on health evidence and health laboratories; work together with the other centers of the CDC, namely, the Center for Health Statistics; and the Center for Surveillance and Epidemiology.

The measure proposes the CDC to be placed under the Health secretary's office. It will act as a  technical authority on forecasting, analysis, strategy, and standards development for the prevention and control of all diseases of public health importance and health security events, whether domestic or international in origin.

The functions of the CDC shall include:
-Develop strategies, standards, and policies for disease prevention and control;
- Implement disease surveillance and field epidemiology activities;
- Perform data collection and analytics;
- Establish and strengthen public health laboratories;
- Recommend actions for public health threats to appropriate national government bodies;
- Lead public health and risk communications;
- Conduct and manage health research and evidence synthesis;
- Build local capacity for surveillance and health research; and
- Promote scientific integrity by ensuring that all its products are technically accurate, scientifically and ethically sound, and useful to the government and the intended population through the institutionalization of appropriate mechanisms and bodies.

Through this measure, Cayetano said a framework will be adopted which aims to foster a whole-of-system, whole-of-government, and whole-of-society approach that would streamline science-based decision-making and policy-making, especially during public health emergencies.

The functions of RITM and the other centers were also harmonized with the existing offices and units within the DOH, she added.

Before she ended her sponsorship, Cayetano said the bill seeks to exempt consultants, scientists and advisers from standard salary grades for government workers as she emphasized the need to strengthen the country's healthcare system and improve the benefits that the government provides.

In December last year, the House of Representatives passed on third and final reading the counterpart measure of SB 1869.

The creation of the Philippine CDC was tagged as a priority of the Marcos administration.—LDF, GMA Integrated News