The House of Representatives passed on third and final reading a bill establishing the Virology, Science and Technology Institute of the Philippines (VIP) as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the nation’s economy and lives of millions.
House Bill No. 9559, authored by Rep. Aris Aumentado of Bohol’s second district, was unanimously approved via a vote of 198-0 with no abstention on July 28, two days after President Rodrigo Duterte deemed the measure’s passage a priority during his final State of the Nation Address.
The VIP is “envisioned to become the premier research and development institute in the field of virology, encompassing all areas in viruses and viral diseases in humans, plants and animals,” the bill states.
If the bill is passed into law, the VIP will be tasked to oversee the following:
- Research on viruses using a modern approach such as molecular biology and its application or biotechnology
- Development of diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics
- International cooperation and network of databases of virus infections
- Operation of a virus gene bank, virus genome laboratory, and virus reference laboratory to focus on viruses circulating in the Philippines for disease prevention and epidemiological studies
- Operation of a virus high containment laboratory dedicated to the study of highly infectious and highly pathogenic viruses
Prior to its approval by the lower house, the Aumentado-chaired committee on science and technology and the committee on health, chaired by Rep, Angelina Tan of Quezon’s fourth district, deliberated on the proposed measure.
A physician by profession, Tan added that the bill seeks to “modernize the country’s capabilities for public health emergency preparedness and strengthen the current bureaucracy that is mandated to address communicable diseases through organizational and institutional reforms.”
As of July 29, 2021, the House-approved measure has been transmitted to the Senate.
For its part, the Department of Science and Technology under Sec. Fortunato de la Peña appealed to the upper chamber to prioritize the bill’s passage.
De la Peña said the VIP is not only preparing to address COVID-19, but other viral diseases as well.
“We can work on vaccines even for infectious diseases caused by non-virus organisms,” de la Peña said. (with a report from June Blanco)