The House of Representatives committee on health on Thursday approved a substitute bill for the creation of the Virology and Vaccines Institute of the Philippines, which will be the country’s first public agency specializing in the research and commercialization of virus technology in the country.
The committee, chaired by Batanes Rep. Ciriaco Gato, approved the measure that was principally authored by Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda—who welcomed the committee’s action on the measure.
In a statement following the approval, Salceda emphasized that “countries with serum institutes were able to gain access to vaccines quicker and were thus able to return to normalcy faster during the pandemic.”
Salceda added that “vaccines and virus-related technology is not merely restricted to human use. Agriculture requires virological study.”
“Tungro, the main threat to many rice farms in the country, is a virus. African Swine Fever is a virus. Our food security rests in large part on our grasp of viruses.”
Salceda cited how Vietnam’s own virology institute was able to invent the first ASF vaccine in the world.
The institute would be under the Department of Science and Technology.
Under the measure, the institute “shall serve as the premier research and development institute in the field of virology, encompassing all areas in viruses and viral diseases in humans, plants, and animals.”
“It shall act as a venue for scientists, both here and abroad, to work collaboratively to study viruses of agricultural, industrial, clinical, and environmental importance,” Salceda said.
Also, the institute will work with international organizations and conduct innovative and pioneering research that will advance the frontiers of virology in the country.
Salceda also insisted that the tax exemptions and the funding provisions for the institute be retained, and assured the committee that the tax panel will approve the tax provisions.
“I would not depend on the commercialization of technologies as the primary funding source of the VVIP. It has to have its own dependable stream of funding from the government.”
Salceda added that “given the overriding importance of the institute, the Committee on Ways and Means sees the merit of the tax exemptions, especially as they align with our usual tax rules anyway.”
Salceda said he hopes the measure will be enacted into law by the end of 2022 or early in 2023.