As the country battles the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, Senator Panfilo Lacson has filed a bill establishing the Virology Science and Technology Institute of the Philippines (VIP) to address the problems caused by new viruses.
In pushing for the passage of Senate Bill (SB) 1543, Lacson cited the devastating social and economic impacts of Covid-19, especially on the poor.
He also noted that aside from new coronaviruses, the country also faces a threat from emerging and reemerging novel viruses, as well as enzootic viruses affecting livestock and plants.
“The country needs diagnostics to detect and limit the spread of the existing viruses; vaccines to provide long-term protection; treatments to save lives in the shorter term, and social science to understand their behavioral and societal implications,” Lacson said.
He noted that the problems could only be addressed using science and technology, specifically through research and development.
“It is therefore imperative that we establish a research institute that delves into the field of virology,” Lacson said.
Under SB 1543, the VIP, which will be under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), shall serve as the country’s premier research and development institute in virology.
It shall be a venue for scientists, both here and abroad, to work and study viruses of agricultural, industrial, clinical, and environmental importance, establishing strategic partnerships with the world’s leading scientists, virology centers and institutes, and conduct pioneering research studies.
The VIP shall also implement policies and projects to develop virology science and technology in the country and promote scientific and technological activities for the public and private sectors.
“The institute must ensure that the results of these activities are properly applied towards self-reliance and utilized to accelerate economic and social development towards the protection of the citizens and its resources,” Lacson said.
The institute will operate a network of databases of virus infections, a virus gene bank, virus genome laboratory, and virus reference laboratory to focus on viruses circulating in the Philippines for disease prevention and epidemiological studies.
The VIP is also mandated to operate a virus high containment laboratory dedicated to the study of highly infectious and highly pathogenic viruses.
Under Lacson’s proposal, the research facility will be located in a five-hectare lot under the Bases Conversion and Development Authority within the New Clark Economic Zone in Tarlac and will have an initial funding of PHP2 billion. (PNA)