Senators have misgivings on the planned abolition of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), an attached agency of the Department of Health (DOH), which had been at the forefront of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Thursday’s first Senate hearing on the proposed measure to establish a Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) and Medical Reserve Corps, Senators Pia Cayetano and Nancy Binay opposed the plan to abolish RITM and place it under CDC.
They suggested to strengthen the institute or widen its scope instead.
In a separate proposal, the Philippine Virology Institute, which functions similarly to RITM, would be established.
Cayetano noted that since last year and in the last Congress, she and Binay had been concerned about the creation of the Virology institute under the Department of Science and Technology versus supporting and giving more funding to RITM, “because clearly, they perform similar functions.”
“Why are we going to end the life of one and then put up another one? We need more clarity on that,” asked Cayetano, who presided the hearing.
Based on the recommendation of the DOH, Director Razel Nikka Hao of the DOH Disease Prevention and Control Bureau said CDC will be an attached agency of the Health department.
It will be led by a Director General with four departments – the Center for Health Statistics, Center for Epidemiology and Surveillance, Center for Reference Laboratories, and Center for Health Evidence.
Dr. Celia Carlos, Director IV of RITM, admitted their office will not be capable of huge research focusing on people only, contrary to the proposed virology institute, which will also conduct studies on viruses in animals.
“As far as we have been informed by DOST, the research component of the virology will not cover only research on humans, viruses affecting humans but viruses affecting plants and animals as well. So, it’s a very broad mandate for a virology institute because RITM is only focused on research on humans, specifically on diseases of public health importance,” she explained.