PH gov’t urged to mass-produce COVID-19 locally-developed test kits, raise fund for R & D
Robie de Guzman • March 11, 2020 • 1324
MANILA, Philippines – Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri is urging the government to immediately mass-produce the test kits developed by local scientists for the detection of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country.
The test kits were developed by local scientists at the University of the Philippines-National Institute of Health (UPNIH) through funding provided by the Department of Science and Technology.
Its public use has been given a greenlight by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Tuesday.
“I urge the government and UP (University of the Philippines) if supplemental budget is necessary for this, I am more than willing to sponsor the measure,” Zubiri said in a statement issued Tuesday.
“Since this is more affordable and more accessible, we will able to cater to more patients,” he added.
He also thanked local scientists for this timely achievement after health authorities earlier revealed they have limited test kits amid rising coronavirus cases in the country.
“Thank you to our UP scientists for this speedy answer to our test kit problem. One reason for the growing panic in the past few days has been the severe lack of testing kits-we had only 2,000 testing kits, which is simply not enough to cater to our population, even just in Metro Manila,” he said.
“With UP’s test kits, we can now more have a better diagnostic process for the virus, and hopefully, this will allow us to develop a better containment strategy as well, as we find out which areas have the most cases,” he added.
Senator Panfilo Lacson also believes that the new test kits for coronavirus will help the government in dealing with the COVID-19 threat.
“Despite measly state support, our local scientists have given us a major boost – and much-needed hope – in dealing with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), by way of test kits developed by local experts at the UPNIH,” he said in a separate statement issued Wednesday.
“Tests using these kits will cost less than 1/6 of those using imported kits,” he added.
Lacson also reiterated his proposal to raise the budgetary allocation for research and development, saying “it is high time our government throw its support behind our homegrown scientists.”
“I have repeatedly raised the issue of the minuscule budgetary allocation for research and development (R&D) in the national budget year in, year out – an average of, lo and behold, 0.4% of the annual budget from 2016 to 2020, including 0.39% for 2020,” he said.
“For the same five-year period, the DOST’s average budget is only P20 billion or a meager 0.56% against the trillions of pesos that we pass every year as our national budget,” he added.
Lacson believes that local scientists can contribute more if they are given adequate support by the government.
“Had our homegrown scientists been given the much-needed additional budgetary support for R&D, who knows how much more they can contribute? As it is, by not supporting them adequately, we’re wasting their talents and opportunities to help our nation,” he said.
“This should be a wake-up call for our government officials who do not invest in research and development (R&D) through the budget,” he added.
MANILA, Philippines — At least five patients in the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) who are suffering from coronavirus disease (COVID-19) die every day.
During a public briefing on Wednesday (April 21), PGH Spokesperson Dr. Jonas Del Rosario reported that for the last two weeks, at least five patients succumb to the virus per day.
There are also times when it would even reach up to seven or 10 patients a day, he said.
Rosario also reported that they already reached full bed capacity.
“Puno po ang ICU (intensive care units), that has been the case for some time – 30 beds po iyon. Sa emergency room, may 25 beds for COVID-19 at lagi rin pong puno. Mostly po severe to critical care iyong nagpupunta sa ER (The ICUs are full, that has been the case for some time – that’s 30 beds. In the emergency room, there are 25 beds for COVID-19 and it’s always full. Mostly, patients in the ER are severe to critical cases)” he said.
The PGH Spokesperson also said they are not in full support of easing quarantine classifications after April 30. He hopes that the number of patients that will be admitted to the PGH will decrease with the help of quarantine restrictions.
“Extension of the MECQ to us will probably help in further decreasing the transmission hopefully and then less people will get hospitalized,” Rosario said. AAC (with reports from Marvin Calas)
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday said that the Senate has no choice but to give a chance to President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 128, which mandates the temporary increase of pork importations at lower tariff rates.
“First, the Senate has no choice since the reduced tariff rates and the increased in-quota MAV [minimum access volume] have already taken effect,” Lacson said in a statement.
Lacson issued the statement after Duterte asked senators to consider his order’s intended effects, which include addressing the shortage in swine meat, stabilizing the price of pork meat, and minimizing the inflation rate, as mentioned by the Department of Agriculture and the President’s Economic Team.
The senator also lamented the lack of inter-departmental consultation regarding the move to reduce tariff rates on pork importation.
“Kung meron lang sanang nangyaring inter-departmental courtesy consultation, since EO 128 is a consequence of a delegated authority granted by Congress to the President anyway, we could have given our input based on our own consultations and research,” he said.
Lacson reiterated that the National Economic Development Authority’s (NEDA) conclusion that demand for pork has not changed in spite of the pandemic is “flawed.”
“I had pointed out during the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing, the 50% contraction registered by the hotel and restaurant operations should easily affect demand since the pre-pandemic 8.2 million foreign tourists are now eating pork somewhere else outside the country,” he said.
“Thus, at 15 kilograms of pork consumption per capita as estimated would mean 120 million kilograms less pork. That should be substantial enough to consider when they came up with the 350,000,000 kilograms in additional in-quota MAV allocation,” he added.
Lacson said Duterte’s appeal “might as well be directed” toward the 80,000 backyard hog raisers, their families, farmhands, and all others now being affected by the EO, both directly and indirectly.
Duterte made the appeal after the Senate Committee of the Whole adopted a resolution calling for the withdrawal of Executive Order 128, which mandates that the tariff rate for imported pork meat within quota or minimum access volume (MAV) be reduced to 5 percent during the first three months upon the order’s effectivity, and to 10 percent in during the months four to 12.
For pork imports outside the quota, the order cuts the tariff to 15 percent during the first three months upon its effectivity, and 20 percent for the months four to 12.
The order also increases to 350,000 metric tons from 54,000 metric tons of the total volume of pork that may be imported to the Philippines.
Malacañang earlier urged senators to “revisit the EO in two months to assess whether the aforesaid intended effects have been realized/met.”
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