Pia sponsors bill creating PH’s own CDC

Creating the Philippine Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Sponsorship speech by Senator Pia S. Cayetano

February 2, 2022

Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, I rise today to sponsor Senate Bill No. 2505, under Committee Report No. 586, entitled ‘An Act Creating the Philippine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Defining its Powers and Functions, and for Other Purposes,’ which is the output of the Sub-Committee on the Center for Disease Control that I chaired.

This measure is also known as the Philippine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Act.

Mr. President, it’s been two years since the country recorded its first COVID-19 case. During those two years, we have realized the importance of strengthening our healthcare system, to protect Filipino families from existing and emerging health emergencies that pose a threat to their lives.

If there’s one lesson we learned from this pandemic, it’s the importance of being more prepared for other future crises, including the possibility of another pandemic. According to the Center for Global Development, there is a 47-57 percent chance of another global pandemic as deadly as COVID in the next 25 years.

This bill particularly seeks to establish the CDC, an agency under the Department of Health that will act as the technical authority on forecasting, preventing, controlling, and monitoring communicable and non-communicable diseases in the country.

Through this measure, we aim to adopt a framework that fosters a whole-of-system, whole-of-government, and whole-of-society approach that would streamline science-based decision-making, especially during public health emergencies.
The CDC shall have different established centers that shall lead and coordinate the agency’s major functions. These are as follows:

•The Center for Health Statistics
•The Center for Surveillance and Epidemiology
•The Center for Health Evidence, and
•The Center for Reference Laboratories.

These centers shall be created through the harmonization of functions and reorganization of the existing offices and units within the DOH.

Mr. President, globally, nations are scrambling for solutions to end the pandemic and defeat the virus. But COVID is not the only health threat out there.

As the Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Sustainable Development Goals, Innovation, and Futures Thinking, it’s my duty to ensure that we are on track with our targets under the SDGs, including SDG 3 on Good Health and Well-being. One of the targets under SDG 3 is to strengthen the capacity of all countries, in particular developing countries, for early warning, risk reduction, and management of national and global health risks.

Now more than ever, we need to invest in our healthcare system to prepare us better for other possible health emergencies, and to help us build a more sustainable future beyond COVID-19.

And this, we ask for our colleagues’ support, Mr. President, for this urgent and most important measure. Thank you, Mr. President. #

A woman senator
In her sponsorship of the proposed Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Act, Senator Pia Cayetano stressed the need to invest in the healthcare system to prepare the country better for public health emergencies, and to help build a more sustainable future beyond COVID-19.


Pia seeks targeted subsidies for home and micro businesses

Senator Pia S. Cayetano is pushing for targeted subsidies to help families and individuals who would like to start or expand their home-based and micro businesses as a means of livelihood to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The senator raised the concept of subsidies targeted specifically for women and small  entrepreneurs during the Senate finance committee hearing on the proposed 2022 budget of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

She noted that women’s work at home and their contribution to the economy have long been recognized as “unpaid work.”  This situation has become even more pronounced as women who previously may have had part-time or full-time work outside the home have either lost their jobs, or been forced to stay home because of the pandemic.

“Many mothers have had to stay home to become ‘full time’ teachers to their children who are studying from home. Even older sisters and young women with nieces and nephews are tasked to look after the younger children in the household instead of working outside the home,” she pointed out.

“The good news is, the entrepreneurial spirit of Filipinos finds a way to shine.” She expressed delight in  seeing  home-based and online businesses  flourishing in the last two years, ranging from food products to clothing, accessories, and services.

“I am sure everyone [in this hearing]  has  a daughter or ‘pamangkin’  or knows of a teen or young adult who has started a business at home during the pandemic. All of us have exchanged these goodies that we bought from these (budding) entrepreneurs who are making all these brownies, cupcakes, everything,” said the senator.

These opportunities are not available to all, however. The senator cited the situation of young women from lower income families who have entrepreneurial skills, but lack access to seed or startup capital.

“Girls that come from the middle or upper economic classes have easier access to capital and have the opportunity to start a business. But those from the lower income group don’t have that kind of access,” noted Cayetano, who is also the principal author of the Magna Carta of Women (Republic Act 9710), the landmark law passed in 2009 advancing the rights and welfare of Filipino women.

“They should have access to capital. So that’s where Secretary Karl, I’d like you to consider this like a targeted and proactive stimulus package,” she told NEDA Secretary Karl Chua, who attended the online hearing.

Giving direct assistance to women-led micro and small businesses is practiced in many developing countries and forms part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 5 or Gender Equality, according to the senator, who chairs the Senate Committee on the SDGs, Innovation, and Futures Thinking. #

Senator Pia Cayetano
We should help Filipino entrepreneurship rise from this pandemic. – Senator Pia S. Cayetano

Speech at the turnover of vaccines at St. Luke’s BGC

Hello, good morning to everyone. Thank you. It’s my pleasure to be here. I am truly excited to witness this momentous occasion.

A little background, almost a year ago, we started this journey with COVID. It’s a journey that I wanted to share with you from the perspective of a legislator – as a senator, I’ve always believed that we should never get in the way of science. And I’ve always felt very strongly that it is our job as legislators to work with the experts.

And so it’s really been an honor, and I thank Secretary Charlie [Galvez], Secretary Vince [Dizon], and of course, my brother Lino [Taguig Mayor Lino Cayetano], and national government, local governments officials – through your eyes, we have been able to come up with a legislation.

I strongly believe that we would not be able to come up with legislation without the scientists. We were in contact in the early days, around April, trying to understand what is going on. And every step of the way, I try to be in contact with DOH, with PGH, and although not directly with St Luke’s, but through my brother, I would get the information that comes from pure experiences.

I hate to put it this way, as I have experienced online bashing for saying that I “thank” COVID for the lessons we’ve learned – because there have been lessons. And we would be stupid, it would be a kind of stupidity, not to learn from this. So I end this because the most important thing is for [our medical frontliners] to get vaccinated.

My message is that this doesn’t end with vaccination. It’s just the start of the journey.

[Minutes ago,] I was still in the car [attending] an online hearing on the resumption of school. Many of the young mothers here have kids in school. These kids have been out of school for almost a year. And their mental health, their social skills, their need for peer companionship – these are aspects of child development that we cannot overlook.

And so the more vaccinations we have, the more we can open up. But it’s been a year. So I think, Sec. Charlie, you’ve done your job, you’re rolling it out, let’s now focus on education. Because we really have to have a whole-of-society approach. Thank you for all your hard work. Thank you.

Pia wants informal sector included in vaccination priority list

Senator Pia Cayetano has urged the National Task Force Against COVID-19  to include informal sector workers in the priority list of vaccine recipients under the government’s vaccination program.
“Ang ating informal sector, ‘yung sari-sari store [sellers] and street vendors, nakikisalamuha sila sa iba’t ibang mga tao araw-araw,” Cayetano said at the continuation of the Senate inquiry on the national vaccination plan on Friday.
“I just wanted to be sure because I didn’t see them in the priority list. Even the informal sectors in the tourism [industry]–yung nagbebenta ng [souvenirs] pati na rin yung mga masahista. I think they are very vital to the stability and improvement of our economy,” she added.
Responding to Cayetano, national task force deputy chief implementer Vince Dizon said that workers in the informal sector, particularly the vendors, are considered part of the indigent Filipino sector which, he said, will be accorded “higher priority, even above the essential workers.”
“Informal workers would definitely be covered in the priority sectors,” he assured.
Based on the initial list presented by Dizon, priority recipients include frontline healthcare workers, senior citizens, indigents, uniformed personnel, teachers, and social workers.
He noted that various technical working groups in the vaccine cluster are still working with the Department of Trade and Industry and Department of Labor and Employment to have a definitive list of priority essential workers.
Essential workers include the workforce in the sectors of agriculture, forestry, fisheries, transportation, construction, food, tourism, essential retail, water refilling stations, laundry services, logistics and courier services, sanitation services, communication, energy, power, and fuel.
Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, Jr. clarified in the same hearing that the target date for the country’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout is still on February 20. #

Pia files ‘vaccine passport’ bill

To help ensure the effective and efficient rollout of the country’s vaccination program, Senator Pia S. Cayetano is proposing to establish a Vaccine Passport Program that will help the government keep track of every Filipino’s record of inoculations against COVID-19.

The senator on Wednesday (January 20) filed Senate Bill No. 1999 or the “Vaccine Passport Program Act,” which seeks to provide a vaccine passport to all Filipinos.

Cayetano said her proposed vaccine passport would put on record who has been inoculated with which kind of vaccine, when and how many doses were administered, and other matters related to the government’s intensive vaccination plan against COVID-19.

Moreover, she said the vaccine passports – which shall primarily be digital but shall also be available through printed copies to ensure accessibility for all – would allow the government to monitor the distribution of vaccines, their effects on people, the overall effectiveness of the immunization program, and to gather data for post-market surveillance.

The vaccine passport shall contain the following standard information: a) Manufacturer, brand name, and batch number or other identifier of the COVID-19 vaccine; b) Date of vaccination; c) Name of the hospital, health center, or health facility where the vaccine was received; and d) Name, signature and license number of the duly licensed physician, nurse or other health worker administering the vaccine.

The measure further recommended that individuals vaccinated against COVID-19, as indicated in their Vaccine Passports, may be granted certain benefits or exemptions, subject to guidelines issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).

These benefits could include international travel, as may be allowed in foreign jurisdictions; non-essential domestic travel; local checkpoint and quarantine exemptions; and access to business establishments allowed to operate during the New Normal.

“We should recognize the importance of preventive healthcare and the need to take proactive measures in the fight against diseases, particularly COVID-19,” the senator stressed.

“A comprehensive, mandatory, and sustainable immunization program for vaccine-preventable diseases – including the novel coronavirus – is indispensable to achieve the objectives of universal healthcare and the country’s commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly on SDG 3 – Good Health and Well-Being,” added Cayetano, who chairs the Senate Committee on SDGs, Innovation, and Futures Thinking that keeps track of the country’s progress in achieving the 17 SDGs. #

Gov’t must clarify vaccine funding commitment to guide LGUs

Senator Pia S. Cayetano on Friday reiterated her call to the national government to clarify how much funds it expects local government units (LGUs) to shoulder for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines to ensure coverage for their constituents.

The senator made this call anew on Friday at the continuation of the Senate’s Committee of the Whole inquiry on the government’s vaccination plan.

“It’s still not clear to me how much you expect the LGUs to spend. I think that should be made very clear. LGUs will always want to provide for their constituents, but even for those that can afford [COVID vaccines], hindi clear kung hanggang saan ang national support at hanggang saan ang kanila,” Cayetano told officials of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) led by Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr.

“Hindi nila malalaman kung uubusin ba nila ang pondo nila sa AstraZeneca na lumalapit sa kanila? O kung meron naman talagang assurance that the national government will take care of X percent of their population,” she added.

Clarifying the national government’s funding and procurement plans for the vaccines, she said, would enable LGUs to more efficiently allocate their “limited and valuable” resources for other COVID response and recovery measures.

“There are many ways that [LGUs] can revive their economy and support their constituents. They could be providing subsidies for jeepney and tricycle drivers. They do not necessarily have to put all their funding into the vaccines, if the national government could commit to paying for such,” Cayetano pointed out.

“I am sure they (LGUs) would all want to help and they will help. Kung hindi talaga kakayanin [ng national government] to pay for all the vaccines, then they will have to take that out of their other funding requirements, most of which are already being directed to [addressing the pandemic],” she further noted.

On another note, the senator called on the Department of Health (DOH) and the IATF to employ the help of the country’s “vaccine experts” and third party professionals in properly communicating the government’s vaccination program and procedures to the public.

“It’s important that these third party professionals and experts also explain what this process is, and what are the dangers if we don’t respect this process, if we try to expedite it, if we try to shortcut it,” she explained.

“You need these experts to take the floor and explain. Let them be your mouthpiece so that people will get used to hearing them, block out the noise, and be more reassured,” Cayetano concluded.#

Private sector may procure COVID-19 vaccines under Bayanihan 2

Senator Pia S. Cayetano today said that the private sector may procure and bring in COVID-19 vaccines into the country from registered pharmaceutical companies, as long as they comply with standards set by government authorities and existing laws.

Cayetano issued the clarification as a co-sponsor in the Senate of Republic Act 11494, or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act,

“The government has no exclusive authority to procure and import COVID-19 vaccines. This is not debatable. The provision under Bayanihan 2 clearly states this,” the senator stressed.

She was referring to Section 12 of the Bayanihan 2 law, which states: “Nothing in this Act shall prohibit private entities from conducting research, developing, manufacturing, importing, distributing or selling COVID-19 vaccine sourced from registered pharmaceutical companies, subject to the provisions of this Act and existing laws, rules and regulations.”

Cayetano acknowledged that the private sector has been the government’s reliable partner in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Section 12, she noted, waives the requirement of Phase IV trials to expedite the procurement of said medication and vaccine, provided that the latter were recommended and approved by the World Health Organization and/or other international health agencies.

The same section likewise mandates that the minimum standards for the distribution of the said vaccines shall be set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC).

Finally, she said that Section 12 of Bayanihan 2 will remain in effect three months from December 19, 2020, or until March 19, 2021.#

On IATF’s face shield requirement for bikers

I join the biking community in expressing concern on the safety of using a face shield while biking.

As a cyclist on the road, I know how important it is to be fully aware of your surroundings. A shield could drastically impair one’s vision and perception of space, which may lead to accidents.

I ask the IATF to consider exempting cyclists from wearing face shields. Moreover, recognizing the role of exercise in promoting mental and physical health, I also ask the IATF to exempt joggers from the requirement when jogging in open spaces, provided they observe social distancing measures.

Pia calls for inquiry on COVID-19 vaccine plan

Senator Pia S. Cayetano on Monday (December 14) filed a resolution calling for a Senate inquiry on the status of the country’s procurement of COVID-19 vaccines and other medical supplies needed for inoculation, as well as the implementation of the country’s vaccination program against the novel coronavirus.

“There is a need to review and examine our existing policies and programs to expedite the purchase of [COVID-19] vaccines and the necessary medical supplies to inoculate the desired number of the population, while ensuring that other health protocols necessary to deal with COVID-19 continue to be improved and implemented,” Cayetano’s Senate Resolution No. 597 read.

The senator said “it is critical to monitor the status of the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines and medical supplies as well as the implementation of a national COVID-19 vaccination program”, to effectively protect Filipinos’ health and help the country build back better.

“Even in the United States, there is much concern about rolling out the vaccine efficiently as it is not only an issue of coordination between the government, healthcare professionals, and healthcare systems but also the involvement of local clinics and the general population because a single misstep may lead to the disruption of the entire system,” the resolution added.

The senator further pointed out that while there are still vaccines undergoing trials, other nations have already secured enough by the end of 2021 for “nearly three times their current population.”

“The United States closed a deal with Pfizer as early as July for 100 million vials, and has recently bought another 100 million from Moderna, while Canada, with the population of 38 million, has agreed to buy up to 76 million doses from Pfizer, and 414 million from other vaccine manufacturers,” she noted through her resolution.

Meanwhile, according to the National Task Force Against COVID-19, the Philippine government could secure advance procurement of the vaccines by the end of next year and get 30 to 50 million doses once they are rolled out.

This, Cayetano cited, would cover only 14 to 23 percent of our population, despite the World Health Organization’s pronouncement that 60 to 70 percent of a country’s population need to acquire immunity to break the chain of transmission.

Apart from COVID-19 vaccines, the senator said there are also other expenses that the government needs to prepare for to ensure the success of the country’s fight against the pandemic.

During the plenary deliberations on the Department of Health’s proposed 2021 budget, Cayetano as Senior Vice Chair of the Senate Finance Committee said the discussion and, consequently, the budgetary allocation should not be limited to the purchase of the vaccines. She pointed out that allocations for other components of the vaccination process – such as storage, training of vaccinators, transportation, waste disposal, health promotion, surveillance, medical supplies like syringes and needles, and other costs for the roll out of the vaccination program – must also be carefully taken into consideration.

Moreover, Cayetano stressed that another concern that should be taken into consideration is people’s willingness to be vaccinated. As such, she said an effective information campaign to properly educate the public on the importance of vaccines and the necessary funds for such are also essential.

“Consideration for all these other components of the vaccination process should go together with our efforts to purchase the vaccines, to guarantee a more holistic approach in the next phase of our COVID-19 battle,” Cayetano concluded. #

Statement on the appeal of the medical community

The medical communities have made an appeal to reimpose ECQ in NCR to give our health workers breathing space. Throughout the pandemic, they truly have been carrying a heavy burden. On the other hand, the IATF has the difficult task of finding the right balance between opening the economy for job creation and restricting movement to stop the spread. Thus, I am glad that the IATF has responded to the President’s directive and committed to review this situation to find a way to address the concerns of our doctors and health workers. In the meantime, we should all do our part to help our health workers. Stay home if your situation permits. If you need to be out, be strict about social distancing, mask-wearing, and handwashing.

Medical frontliners (source: DOH / PNA)