To set the foundations of the country’s health emergency response and prevention system, UN Global Champion for DRR and Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda filed the country’s first ever comprehensive health emergency mechanisms and policy framework, as House Bill No. 6096.
Apart from institutional and policy reforms necessary to expand the country’s health emergency response mechanisms, the bill also creates a Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which will prepare the country’s mitigation of and response to communicable diseases.
“My bill essentially lifts our communicable disease control and prevention units out of the depths of the DOH bureaucracy and into the more visible levels of decision-making and policymaking,” Salceda said. “Inahon ko yung communicable disease control kasi sa ngayon, nakabaon sa ilalim ng maraming agency, kaya hindi makagalaw ng maayos.”
“The hazards kasi will always be there - but they are rising and are more complex. We have always had to contend with microscopic enemies. But the risks have geometrically multiplied by our exposure: tropical climate, leading tourist destination (with 8.4 million in 2019), leading source of overseas labor (12 million OFWs in 2019), growing status as work destination for foreign workers (including 280,000 POGO workers).” Salceda explained.
“In a globalized world, borders are becoming more and more porous. But our mechanisms are still calibrated as if borders are only relevant as far as preventing trafficking of humans and goods are concerned. Hindi na sapat yan. Legal entry can no longer be automatically taken as safe for public health,” Salceda said.
Salceda’s bill creates the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, as a separate agency under the supervision of the DOH and will be led by Executive Director with Undersecretary rank, but with broader policymaking, implementation, surveillance, disease control and prevention powers over communicable or infectious diseases. Such diseases are rapid-onset in nature, meaning the risks compound exponentially over time without early and decisive intervention.
The CDC would ensure that intervention is made at the earliest opportunity, having been lifted out of the depths of the bureaucracy.
The bill also creates a National Health Emergency Response Unit (NHERU) under the DEMB, which shall act as the frontline force in ground and surveillance operations of the CDC. This shall be a well-trained unit of first-responders.
“Kung naalala niyo yung mga naka-white protective gear during the Ebola crisis, that will be the function of NHERU. Parang special forces natin for disease control and prevention,” Salceda said.
Apart from these, the bill also provides for mechanisms for the declaration of the state of a public health emergency, a coordinating council for the same, and broader quarantine powers for the CDC.
The bill also makes quarantine misdeclarations perjurious, as it requires these declarations to be made under oath.
SUPPLEMENTAL BUDGET FOR DPBC
“Naturally, the bill is very broad in scope. But the basic idea is: the current approach, the way we organize ourselves to confront outbreaks will no longer suffice, will not make us safer, will not convince our people to trust public institutions. But first things first, Congress should pass a supplemental budget to increase the budget of DPCB to P800 million, especially since it has been reduced from P263 million in 2019 to P115 million,” he added.
Salceda’s CDC bill is part of his office’s National Resilience Agenda, which includes the creation of the Department of Disaster Resilience and the Taal Commission and TERRA Fund.
The bill also follows Salceda’s “Bill, Bill, Bill” agenda of comprehensive government reform, a commitment he made in an Aide Memoire to Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Majority Leader Martin Romualdez on January 26.
RATIONALE OF THE CDC ACT 2020
1. The Philippines, with its tropical location, its large population, high rates of urbanization, a highly mobile and transborder population (with an estimated 10.4 million Filipinos overseas in 2019 and 3.4 million stock of OFW at any time), as a top tourist destination (with an estimated 8.4 million tourists in 2019), with 6,272,092 nationals going abroad in 2018 (2.3 million OFWs, 2.979 million as tourists, 980,772 for other reasons) for and increased numbers of foreign workers (with about 280,000 from Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations alone) is especially prone to the increasingly globalized risks of communicable diseases. Many such diseases, including those we have eradicated already in the past, are emerging and reemerging, threatening the health and safety of the public.
2. Aside from porous borders, our lack of institutional capacity to implement comprehensive public health management programs, as well as the present orientation of border law enforcement towards smuggling of excisable products and the prevention of human trafficking and smuggling, but not towards public health protection, stymies the country’s ability to decisively address the risks of communicable disease.
3. Presence of hazards, our increased exposure to such hazards, and the lack of existing mechanisms and capacity to address them emphasize the national imperative for a framework for effective intervention.
4. Quick and decisive intervention will not come from the depths of the bureaucracy. There is a need for a high-level public institution imbued with the capacity, the competencies, the ecosystem, and the authority to confront these risks decisively and thus protect the public welfare and enable development to proceed amidst these rising risks
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE CDC PROPOSAL (HB 6096)
1. Creation of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, as a separate agency under the control and supervision of the DOH, but with broader policymaking, implementation, surveillance, disease control and prevention powers including direct response over communicable or infectious diseases. Such diseases are rapid-onset in nature, meaning the risks compound exponentially over time without early and decisive intervention. The CDC would ensure that interventions are made at the earliest opportunity, having been lifted out of the depths of the bureaucracy.
2. The strategic focus of the new agency is RAPID and SUDDEN ONSET HEALTH HAZARDS AND EMERGING DISEASES, principally communicable diseases.
3. Separation of the Disease Control and Prevention Bureau of the DOH, with the CDC absorbing communicable disease units in a newly established Communicable Disease Prevention Bureau. This would solidify the delineation between communicable and non-communicable disease prevention and control in the least organizationally-disruptive manner possible.
4. Absorption of the Epidemiology Bureau and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine into the CDC. This would strengthen the CDC’s disease control and prevention capacity.
5. Creation of the Disease Emergency Management Bureau (DEMB) to calibrate the CDC’s response to health emergencies.
6. Granting of broader quarantine powers to the Secretary of Health and the CDC
7. Creation of the Health Emergency Coordination Council, which shall coordinate national government response to health emergencies, and which shall declare the existence of a state of health emergency;
8. CDC thru the council may authorize the DOH and other responding agencies to a health emergencies to access the NDRRMF or authorize specific LGUs use calamity funds during a state of health emergency;
9. Broad health emergency powers to the HECC and the CDC including a redefinition of the relationship between the CDC and the Bureau of Quarantine during health emergencies;
10. A comprehensive health emergency management framework, including provisions for vaccination and treatment, isolation and quarantine, and disease surveillance;
11. The creation of a National Health Emergency Response Unit (NHERU) under the DEMB, which shall act as the frontline force in ground and surveillance operations of the CDC; This shall be a well-trained unit of first-responders.
12. A comprehensive framework for tracking public health emergencies;
13. A mandate for the Secretary of Foreign Affairs and the Secretary of Health to recommend beneficial agreements on exchange of health information with international organizations and with other countries.