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House panel strengthens PH preparedness vs pandemics

THE House committee on health has endorsed a bill authorizing the stockpiling of vaccines, including those for coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19), and other critical drugs and medical supplies.
In a hearing presided over by committee vice chairman and Bataan Rep. Jose Enrique Garcia lll, the panel approved House Bill (HB) 6995, authored by committee chairperson and Quezon Rep. Angelina Tan.

The panel created a technical working (TWG) group to consolidate with the bill inputs from other members of the committee.

Tan said the current pandemic “has affected the global and local production and distribution of pharmaceuticals and medical devices as well as the supply of raw materials, active pharmaceutical ingredients, excipients, packaging materials and finished medical products needed to combat COVID-19 and other diseases.”

She said it is important for the country to strengthen its preparedness for pandemics and especially natural disasters, since it is prone to calamities due to its geographical location.

The panel chairperson said her proposed law “aims to protect public health by addressing the problem of access to critical drugs and medicines, vaccines, devices and materials in times of public health emergencies by mandating the procurement and stockpiling of critical and strategic pharmaceuticals and medical devices as well as the supply of raw materials.”

Tan, a physician by profession, noted that the country is now in talks with Russia, the United States and other potential suppliers of COVID-19 vaccines.

Under HB No. 6995, a Health Procurement and Stockpiling Bureau would be created in the Department of Health (DoH) “to undertake a transparent, fair, proactive, innovative procurement service for the DOH, and to stockpile, conserve and facilitate the release of adequate amounts of potentially life-saving pharmaceuticals, vaccines, devices, and materials in times of public health emergencies.”

The proposed new bureau would absorb the present DoH procurement office.

The health secretary would determine the bureau’s organizational structure, subject to the approval of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), and appoint its officers.
The bureau would be mandated to procure supplies preferably from local sources.

A stockpiling fund would be created and managed by the DoH, which may solicit donations and conduct fund-raising activities, proceeds from which would be exempt from income, donor’s and other taxes.

The DoH and the proposed bureau would be required to submit reports to the President and Congress on their operations and activities.