Bicutan, Taguig City – The National Academy of Science and Technology, Philippines (NAST PHL) conducted the Science Legislative Forum on Philippine Virology Science and Technology Institute on 10 October 2022via Zoom and Facebook Live.
Academician Arvin C. Diesmos, member of the Biological Sciences Division of NAST PHL, presented an overview of this legislative forum and introduced the concept of One Health to promote balance and optimize the health of people. He also emphasized the main objectives of this legislative forum: to fast-track the process of establishing a vaccine institute and to secure support from all stakeholders from different sectors.
The Philippine Virology Science and Technology Institute
Because of the COVID-19 Pandemic, there is an urgent call to boost the country’s capacities against novel, emerging, and reemerging infectious diseases. One of the proposed solutions is to establish a Virology and Vaccine Institute with the primary goal of developing diagnostics and vaccines.
With the initiative to boost the capacity of the country against reemerging infectious disease, there is a goal to establish a venue for researchers and scientists to build a foundation to respond to occurring and potential threats to public health.
Dr. Annabelle V. Briones, director of the Department of Science and Technology – Industrial Technology Development Institute (DOST-ITDI), elucidated the potential impacts of the Virology Institute of the Philippines (VIP) bill and how it can establish strong linkages and partnerships with scientists, international virology centers, and institutes to conduct research that can advance the frontiers of virology in the country.
To establish safeguards against economic losses and improve the health care capacity including the socio-economic ability to respond, Congressman Carlito Marquez, chair of the House Committee on Science and Technology, declared his support and emphasized that this VIP bill should be a priority on our national agenda.
With the vision to establish a principal laboratory in virology, Senator Christopher Lawrence T. Go, chair of the Senate Committee on Health, discussed and informed the participants of the current version of the bill as one of the co-authors of the VIP Act.
Health Security through One Health Approach
In the past 20 years, there have been numerous viruses that have affected the safety and health of Filipinos. COVID-19 is considered to be one of the most dangerous viruses with severe health and socio-economic consequences. The country has noted inefficiencies, poor interoperability, and avoidable knock-on impacts on both public health and the economy. The government and scientists, academics, and organizations from the private sector and public to work together to develop a framework for control and prevention of zoonotic diseases in the country.
With the research of Prof. Phillip A. Aviola, associate professor at the Institute of Biological Sciences of the University of the Philippines Los Baños, identified the viruses that can be found in the country and identified its origin to control the spread of the disease. Animal-Borne diseases with epidemic and pandemic potential have already been identified in his research. However, surveillance efforts have been limited to anticipate the emergence of diseases in different areas. The proposed VIP act will address the lack of effort and serve as a platform for scientists, academics, and organizations to collaborate and build a foundation for surveillance and diagnostics, including the development of vaccines.
There are recognized Virology Science and Technology Institutes globally. Dr. Noel Lee J. Miranda, regional technical consultant on Public Health Emergency Management, had recommendations for the S&T to match Public Health needs and collaborate with different sectors. PVSTI should serve as a platform for scientists, academics, and organizations to collaborate and avoid duplicating efforts to maximize efficiency and potentially innovate technologies through research and development.
Through collaboration, the country will have the potential to join other ASEAN countries that can develop and produce vaccines not only for domestic use but also contribute in providing regional needs. Dr. Theresa Mundita S. Lim, executive director of the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity, mentioned with the VIP bill, there will be a better appreciation of having the potential discovery of valuable information on zoonotic diseases. Rich biodiversity is still not well understood; therefore, this is an initiative once implemented that will be expected to contribute more substantial value to our Philippine diversity and should lead to a fair and equitable sharing of benefits.
Avian Influenza and Bird Flu diseases also affected the poultry industry and endangered species, where declining populations like the Philippine Eagle still continue to decline. Mr. Dennis I. Salvador showed his support to the passage of the VIP act, as the country’s national bird is currently endangered. This will also improve the status of the poultry industry and promote rehabilitation of affected areas.
Representative Dr. Rainelda C. Dela Peña, representative of Dr. Reildrin G. Morales, presented the functions and services currently offered by the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI). Cooperation and collaboration are the key strategies to solve the country’s health burden and to be prepared in the future of possible pandemic. They showed their full support on the immediate passage of the VIP Act, complimenting the functions of their agency.
The open forum includes questions related to the functions of the proposed VIP and their concerns, since linkages with the higher education institutions (HEIs) and state universities and colleges (SUCs) would be an essential factor in developing the capacity of the country.
To officially close the forum, Acd. Jaime C. Montoya, chair of the Health Sciences Division of NAST PHL, thanked all the speakers for their insightful presentations and promotion to fasten the passage of the VIP Act. He also emphasized that the proposed bill will not only focus on human health threats, but also provide for the needs of the animal and plant industry. And with the One Health approach, this legislative forum will boost the country’s resilience as a nation and to enable the country’s capacity in Virology.
This legislative forum aimed to fast track the process of establishing a vaccine institute and to secure the support from all stakeholders from different sectors.
Invited participants include legislators, researchers, proponents of the VIP bill, the committee on health and science and technology in both the congress and senate to attend the virtual forum. (Christian Earl Estioco / NAST PHL)
This event was broadcasted on the NAST PHL facebook page. (https://www.facebook.com/nastphl)
The National Academy of Science and Technology, Philippines (NAST PHL) is an attached agency to the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) mandated by law to recognize outstanding achievements in scientific research and development and to serve as an adviser to the President of the Republic of the Philippines and the cabinet on policies concerning science and technology in the country. For more updates, follow NAST Philippines’ (@nastphl) social media accounts.