House Ways and Means Community chairman, Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda has once more raised the urgency of enacting the Center for Disease Control (CDC) charter, a measure he authored, amid global alarm on the recent emergence of a horde of infectious diseases, topped by the Covid 19 pandemic, that are “harder” to diagnose.
Salceda issued his call in response to an advisory from the United States (US) Center for Disease Control (CDC) that cases of monkeypox recently being detected in some parts of the world, which do not necessarily display usual symptoms.
“We have seen presentations of monkeypox that are mild and sometimes infect only limited areas of the body, which differs from the classic presentations seen in endemic countries in Western Central Africa,” US CDC head Rochelle Walensky said.
As of June 9 this year, around 1,300 cases have been documented worldwide. No case of monkeypox has been reported yet in the Philippines, but the Department of Health (DOH) has earlier announced warnings and measures to prepare for the disease.
“These infections, whether mild or serious, will come to the Philippines. As I’ve learned in my term as Albay Governor, nature will come to you, so you have to have the capacity to deal with it. You have to have the institutions, the surge capacity, the culture, and the resources to adapt to it,” Salceda said.
“We will get more zoonotic diseases or diseases that come from animals, as the world begins to lose more natural habitats due to farming or urbanization. That means more interactions between humans and wild animals, and therefore, more chances of zoonosis,” Salceda stressed.
“Of course, part of the long-term solution is to prevent their habitats from being denuded. As one of the world’s most bio-diverse countries, we have to play a big part in that. And we have to ask the world for help in preventing the loss of natural habitats in the country,” he added.
“When I was Governor of Albay, we were among the few places in the world to grow and expand our forest cover instead of shrinking them. So, it’s definitely part of the solution,” Salceda pointed out.
“In the short-run, however, we need to brace ourselves for more infectious diseases like monkeypox, COVID-19, human-infectious avian flu, and others. These things will come more often, as habitats decline, as climate change accelerates disruptions in nature, and as worldwide travel resumes and expands,” he said.
Salceda’s proposal, HB 9560 that was passed by the House in July 2021, would have created a Center for Disease Control and Prevention, an umbrella facility for existing infectious disease units of the country, with expanded health emergency powers and a staff complement of trained responders to “sudden-onset” health emergencies such as COVID-19.
The CDC would have separated infectious diseases from the core bureaucracy of the Department of Health (DOH), but would have kept it under the Secretary of Health. President Duterte has declared the proposal a priority legislation.
Salceda said, “the separation and capacitation is necessary because infectious diseases of a mass scale are not ordinary health issues and concerns. They require a capacity to deal with waves, as opposed to the more predictable concerns from lifestyle or chronic diseases.”
The Albay lawmaker expressed hope “President Marcos will also prioritize it, as PRRD did. The measure was sponsored in the Senate floor, but there was not enough time in the 18th Congress,” he noted.
Salceda has vowed to refile the CDC bill, “and this time, we will hopefully be able to get it through Congress, because the infections you want to deal with will not just go away.”