SEN. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, chairman of the Senate health and demography committee, lauded the extension of the state of calamity in the Philippines to ensure the continuity of efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
President Rodrigo Duterte issued Proclamation 1021, extending the state of calamity from Sept. 13, 2020 to Sept. 12, 2021, “unless earlier lifted or extended as circumstances may warrant.”
“As the Covid-19 virus continues to threaten the public’s health and safety, it is imperative that we continue to remain vigilant and focused on preventing a bigger outbreak as well as addressing the urgent needs facing our people,” said Go in a statement.
On March 16, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Proclamation 929, which placed the country under a state of calamity for a period of six months and imposed a community quarantine throughout the island of Luzon. Other areas in the country were eventually placed under varying quarantine measures.
The declaration also provided the national government and local government units (LGUs) with the tools to access the necessary funds for response efforts as well as to intensify measures, such as easing procurement processes, mandatory reporting, and enforcing quarantine and disease control prevention.
Go called on the Department of Health (DoH) to use the state of calamity extension to plan, implement and strengthen its efforts against Covid-19 and other health threats, particularly in the area of disease surveillance and contact tracing.
The senator is thus pushing for the passage of Senate Bill (SB) 1528, which he filed to amend Republic Act 11332, also known as the “Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act.”
The proposed measure will strengthen disease surveillance and control capabilities by improving contact tracing capacities and testing effectiveness.
The bill directs the Health department to develop clear guidelines on the systematic reporting and recording of notifiable diseases and other similar important developments in health that are of public concern and mandates the establishment of subnational laboratories in every DoH-run regional hospital in the country that will have the capacity to test, diagnose, control and prevent infectious diseases.
It also gives LGUs the freedom to set up their own laboratories subject to the accreditation and approval of the health department. The bill likewise directs LGUs to establish their own epidemiology and surveillance units.
Finally, SB 1528 mandates the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines to assist the DoH in its contact tracing efforts.
Go also called for the urgent passage of SB 1451 or the “Medical Reserve Corps Act of 2020,” which shall give the Health secretary the authority to mobilize, with compensation, all individuals with degrees in medicine, nursing, medical technology and other health-related fields who have yet to obtain their licenses during times of national emergencies.