Filipinos need to be updated on our COVID-19 vaccine program

As the author of Senate Resolution No. 597, the purpose really was to seek this hearing to get clarification on the rollout of the vaccination program.

I think we can all agree that in terms of governance, there is nothing more important than containing the spread of COVID-19. This has affected our communities, our country, in every possible way, from the businesses, from the ability of children to go to school, from access to healthcare, safety of women, so much of our lives have been disrupted.

So it’s very simple. We need to know, our people have the right to understand, not just to hear, but to understand what programs will be rolled out to secure their future.

So from the financing, the procurement, the storage, the transport, administration, and even communication.

At the onset of COVID, no less than WHO emphasized how important communication is. Having had my own dialogues, conversations, Zoom meetings with members of the IATF and DOH in particular, I am familiar with many of the things they are doing. However, I always emphasize communication is important, with co-equal branches of government, and with people so that they understand that things are being done for them.

I will just point out two areas before I yield the floor so we can move on with the presentations. But having been the Vice Chair of the Committee on Finance and [sponsor] of the Department of Health’s budget, I am very familiar that we have allocated funding for the vaccines. However, I’d like to put this on record, that in the last few weeks, maybe 6 weeks or so, the national government has made it clear that we will be procuring vaccines. One report said that it’s 22 million vaccines, of which 2 million will be paid for by the private sector through tripartite agreement.

So we know that the private sector is involved, they are willing, we thank them for coming in and donating and being a part of all this. Yes, I truly believe in a whole-of-nation approach. Meanwhile, local governments have started allocating funds, entering into their own tripartite agreements. Many of the Metro Manila mayors have set aside funds, and also local governments from bigger provinces and cities around the country.

But meanwhile, what happens is the confusion as to, do they really need to allocate this to secure the health of their people? Is that necessary? What now is the impression that it leaves the smaller LGUs, who either have very limited capacity or no capacity at all?

My point is it’s a communication issue. What do these LGUs who are fifth class municipalities, fourth class municipalities, anong mukha ang ihaharap nila sa mga tao nila na wala naman talaga silang pera na kapareho ng mga Metro Manila mayors or mayors ng ibang cities?

That’s my point, we have to clarify this. We commend those who can afford and have put it as a priority but what about those who cannot? Yes, there are statements they are not going to be left behind, but I don’t think that’s the point. The point is, I think we have to be very clear where the funding is coming from, is it even necessary for the LGUs to do this?

Case in point, many cities have hospitals that are run by private sectors. And I also heard that some of these hospitals are now also allocating for their own frontliners. So that means, there is this sense of insecurity that their frontliners will not be covered. Bakit, pang public frontliners lang ba ang priority natin?

So these are the types of questions that I believe we really need to resolve. Maybe you have resolved it, but maybe it has to be communicated better to us and to the people.

That’s on the financing side. One last point I will emphasize now is also on the rolling out, once it’s procured, the storage, the transportation. We have the private sector that is very capable and has already existing facilities. Are we tapping them, have we signed a deal with them, or are we still exploring doing it on our own? No less than Germany, the UK, and other major countries that have all the facilities have experienced major problems in the facilitation and administration of the vaccine. Magyayabang ba tayo na mas magaling tayo sa kanila? Dahil sa kanila eh nagka-palpak pero sa atin, hindi?

We have the benefit of learning from their experience. But that slowness has also built more insecurity and I can’t say it has contributed to the (vaccine) confidence of our people. We have Filipinos all over the world, mababalitaan nila kamag-anak nila, naturukan na sa USA, sa UK, sa Europe. So naiinggit syempre ang mga Pilipino because this is their life they are fighting for.

So on that note, I will yield. But I just wanted to emphasize that really the objective  here is to get the information, to help share this information with the people so that we can do the best we can in the next few months but also move forward with confidence because that is very important for our businesses, for the mothers who are working double time, making money and have to tutor their own kids, they need that security to know that in a few months, things will get better.

Thank you. #

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.#

Statement on the delayed passage of the CREATE bill

Senator Pia S. Cayetano today said that COVID-19 vaccines could have already been exempted from the value added tax (VAT), had the House adopted the Senate’s version of the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) bill before the session ended this year.

This was Cayetano’s reaction to the recent call by House Ways and Means Chair Rep. Joey Salceda for the government to make the vaccines tax-free.

“I agree with the call of my House counterpart to exempt COVID-19 vaccines from tax. In fact, VAT exemption is already provided in the CREATE bill, which the Senate passed on third and final reading last November 26,” noted the Senate Ways and Means Committee chair.

“This could have already been a law now if only the House of Representatives saw the merit in adopting our version before the session ended this year” she lamented.

Cayetano further noted that the senators wanted a comprehensive list of exemptions to cover not just the vaccines, but also all drugs, devices, raw materials, and capital equipment needed to help the government’s response to contain the pandemic.

She said that Sec. 11 of the CREATE Bill (Senate Bill No. 1357) provides VAT exemption for the sale and importation of the following beginning January 1, 2021 to December 31, 2023:

-Capital equipment, its spare parts and raw materials, necessary for the production of personnel protective equipment for COVID-19 prevention;

-All drugs, vaccines and medical devices specifically prescribed and directly used for the treatment of COVID-19; and

-Drugs for the treatment of COVID-19 approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in clinical trials, including raw materials directly necessary for the production of such drugs.

It should be recalled that Cayetano made a manifestation on the last day of session for this year (December 16) to caution about the consequences of the non-passage of the CREATE bill by Congress this year, which would have mandated the immediate lowering of the corporate income tax from 30% to 25% for all businesses, and 20% for qualified micro, small, and medium enterprises effective July 2020. #

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. #

On the Senate’s passage of the CREATE bill

I am elated that the ​Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) ​Bill, which I have been working on since the start of the 18th Congress last year, has now passed the Senate on third reading. In fact, this bill’s earlier versions date back two decades ago.

In July of 2019, what we started with was t​he Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Reform Act (CITIRA) bill, which was passed by our counterparts in the House of Representatives. Shortly after the cou​ntry was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, the measure then evolved into the CREATE Bill, which ​seeks to (1) drastically reduce the Corporate Income Tax from 30 to 25 percent – to give businesses respite from the global crisis; and (2) ensure that tax incentives granted to qualified investors contribute to job generation.

The CREATE Bill that we finally passed in the Senate is the best version thus far, with more favorable tax rates granted to taxpayers, especially to our micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), VAT exemptions on critical medicines and PPEs, and more competitive incentives packages to attract the right kinds of investments into the country. Moreover, it would enable the Philippines to be at par with many of our ASEAN neighbors in attracting foreign direct investments, and firm up our efforts to build a stronger economy as we prepare for the challenges of the New Normal and beyond.

Co-sponsorship on the Inclusive Education Bill

It is my honor to co-sponsor this measure. I filed my first version of this bill as Chair of the Senate Committee on Education, Arts and Culture back in the 16th Congress. It was developed with the assistance of the Advisory Council for the Education of Children and Youth with Disabilities, a body organized by the Department of Education (DepEd) in collaboration with the disability sector and stakeholder representatives.

But, dear colleagues, I was drawn to this bill and realized its importance because I had a special child. His name is Gabriel Rene Cayetano. Many of the pictures that our colleagues shared are required for courtesy that their faces are not shown. But I would like you to meet my son, this is Gabriel, who was born in the year 2000. My father was actually a senator at that time. Gabriel would fall on many of the categories that his honor, Sen. Gatchalian listed. He would have been a learner with hearing impairment, with visual impairment, with mobility problems, and with severe health conditions – he had a hole in his heart, he had tumors in his kidney, and as you can see, he would have had a speech impairment as well because he had a cleft lip and palate… I tend to forget how long the list of his disabilities are. He would have also had a learning disability in terms of his ability to comprehend and communicate. The condition that my son had is called trisomy 13. It is also a rare disease. It is part of the laws we have right now to support children with rare diseases. And only one in 20,000 survive past their first month.

So while my son was fighting for his life, I had the chance to contemplate on what his future would be. I had hoped he would defy the norm. During his first few months, it did appear that he would survive. His pediatricians and doctors told me that he was already surviving. In this picture, my son was probably already 3-4 months, and he was already defying the odds.

So as a mother, already at that time, I had two older children, I was already contemplating that if God would give him more years, what kind of education do I have to prepare for him? I already surrounded him with whatever learning tools can be used by an infant – music, visual stimulants – they say that infants can only see better when it’s contrasting colors… We read to him, and so on and so forth. My son had two midwives who alternated their time to take care of him, including a private nurse at night. And this is where he lived in the neonatal intensive care unit in Makati Med for 5 months. And then, he was strong enough to move out and stay in his own private room. And that’s when we needed a full time staff, because unlike the intensive care, where they also had nurses who were around the clock there.

Mr. President, I know how difficult it is to look after the health of your child when your child is sick. I know how it is to look after the needs of your child who has a learning disability, and it is a herculean task. And I could not have survived without the love and support of my family, and the professionals that were there to help us.

Which brings me to the bill on hand. Obviously, I am of full support. But again, it is a herculean task. If you look at the budget of education, as our Chairpersons of the Committee on Higher Ed and the Committee on Basic Education pointed out, and was also pointed out by her honor, Sen. Nancy Binay, we don’t have enough personnel even for those children without learning disabilities. Our classrooms are still full. Can you imagine a 40-student classroom, 6-8 year olds, and then the teacher would be asked to take in a child with special needs who has a disability. Yes, it is that right of that child, but it is also the right of the child to be assisted in their integration. And unless we are ready and prepared to pour in the funds for this, I know that our teachers already have their hands full as it is.

So what I will ask our dear colleagues is to really sit down with our Chairman on the Committee on Education and myself as the Vice Chair for the Committee on Finance and really see how much we are really willing to pour into this. Because during the deliberations, inasmuch as I fully support the rights of these children to be integrated, to have playmates, to attend school with their friends, with kids their age, I don’t know how one teacher would handle that. My mother is a teacher. I grew up in her classroom. I know what it is like and it is not an easy task.

Kapag ginawa natin ito, buhusan naman natin ito ng suporta because otherwise, it’s a disservice to the parents who would be hoping that their child would be able to learn, to integrate. My son would never be able to integrate. He would have never walked, talked, I don’t even know if he would recognize his classmates because until he passed away, I do not know if he recognized me. So that is the different spectrums of disabilities.

And I wanted to share my story with all of you so that we are cognizant and more understanding of this situation and the different needs and how we will go about solving, helping the parents of children with special needs.

Thank you for taking the time to hear our story and I hope that my son’s short life will continue to be an inspiration to many of us, as it has been in my family. We formed a foundation in his memory, it’s called Gabriel’s Symphony Foundation, wherein we have for the last 20 years – by the way, my son would have been 20 years old in about two weeks, on December 4. We hope that we are able to continue supporting children with disabilities and raise awareness among other people and families who have other children who can become friends, who will become classmates of these children with special needs.

Thank you, Mr. President.#

“I wanted to share my story with all of you so that we are cognizant and more understanding of this situation and the different needs and how we will go about solving, helping the parents of children with special needs.”

On the proposed budget of DOH & attached agencies

Mr. President, it is my honor to take on the herculean task of sponsoring the budget of the Department of Health and its attached agencies, including PhilHealth.

Our country’s people are its biggest resource. Thus their health should be a priority. COVID-19 pandemic has exposed gaps in our country’s healthcare and response system. As we deliberate on our national budget, our vision should be geared towards closing these gaps.

Investments in healthcare should help us build back better, guided by the principles of sustainable development and futures thinking.

This requires that we focus and further strengthen Primary Health Care, pursuant to the principles of the Universal Health Care Law.

These initiatives also form part of the country’s commitments under SDGs, [particularly] SDG 3 (Good Health & Wellbeing).

Mr. President, I thought it wise, and in my interest to save time, I would like our colleagues to take note of some of the facts and data that I will share now because they may be relevant to the questions you may ask. So I will spread it on the record now.

On the COVID-19 Vaccines:

According to the World Health Organization, at least 60-70% of the population needs to have immunity to break the chain of transmission. This means around 65 million Filipinos (60% of our current population) need to be vaccinated.

At present, the Department has identified priority groups of around 24M vulnerable Filipinos, which make up around 20% of our population. This includes frontline health workers, senior citizens, indigent population, and uniformed personnel.

They also have a tier 2 of priority, but this is 20%. Why do I mention 20%? Because as I will explain a little bit more later in the course of interpellation, since we are part of the COVAX, we have the assurance of getting vaccines for 3-20 percent of our population.

So how much do we have to allocate to cover these priority groups? Based on the costing of DOH, we need to allocate at least Php 15 billion if we purchase Aztrazeneca vaccine, which is the cheapest at around Php 610 per person. Or on the other extreme, Php 436.3B for the Sinopharm vaccine, which is the highest priced at around Php 17,690 per person for two doses, while the others fall in between. For the record, may vaccine na ganoon kamahal. The other vaccines fall in between.

Experts recommend that we purchase from various suppliers. Why? Well, given that there may be possible side effects, we would rather spread out our risk throughout the population and minimize the chances that we are all exposed to one particular vaccine and any particular side effects they have. For the record, I am a vaccine advocate. And lahat naman meron, hindi naman ho tayo pwedeng matakot sa side effects, pwedeng masakit ang ulo, pwedeng ano pa man. Normal naman po yun, huwag lang ang masama at malalang side effect.

It cannot be overemphasized that these amounts only cover the cost of vaccines and do not include consumables and other logistics that go into delivering the vaccine to the individual that needs it.

Apart from the vaccines, there are other expenses:

Cold Chain or Supply Chain, which keeps vaccines in tightly controlled temperatures before administered to a person; Training & PPEs for vaccinators; Needles, syringes & other critical equipment.

These are things that have to be purchased in advance, considering that the entire world is also trying to get hold of them during this global crisis. Take for example syringes. I am told that we do have a manufacturer here in the Philippines in one of our industrial zones. But their entire production is already committed to Japan. So paano? Sayang, ano? We are making it here pero hindi tayo makakuha. I think magiging available daw after six months. So pwede, baka pwede din tayong pumila for that second batch of syringes.

But, there’s also another company that manufactures syringes, and they are waiting for us to communicate and negotiate with them so we can get hold of this most important component in the vaccination process. I don’t think that we have started this process yet, Mr. President.

Further, considering that the DOH may not be equipped to handle the Supply Chain requirements of COVID-19 vaccines, the government should be outsourcing, discussing, negotiating with private companies that are already equipped to handle such vaccines. Wala naman hong masama na magtulong-tulong tayo. Whole-of-society, whole-of-nation dapat ang approach natin.

Meanwhile, aside from the vaccine, there is progress being made in therapeutic medicines that can be used for COVID infected persons. We should also pay attention to this because COVID-19 will not disappear right away. So meanwhile, the development of these therapeutic medicines is also important, and we should continue the ongoing WHO Solidarity Trials for these therapeutic medicines.

As Vice Chair of the Finance Committee handling the budget of our health sector, we have also taken on the task of defending PhilHealth’s budget.

Philhealth  has been the subject of many investigations, including the one recently conducted by the Senate. We are cognizant of our fellow senators’ concerns on the need to address PhilHealth’s inefficiencies and alleged fraudulent actions.
Nevertheless, we are ready to defend its proposed budget for the next year, with the vision towards the full implementation of the UHC Law to benefit all Filipinos, but mostly those who have less in life.

One of their biggest budgetary needs is the funding of Konsulta – the outpatient package. This representation has been awaiting the roll-out of such a package for years. Health experts agree that a sustainable  health system must focus on preventive health care, not a hospital care type of package, which is what Philhealth is all about right now. Preventive health care is not only much cheaper, it is more efficient. Most ailments can be treated with lifestyle modification, possibly medicines and home rest, instead of expensive hospital stays.

But despite my full support for outpatient care, at its present stage, we do not believe that Philhealth is ready to roll out a P68.8-billion plan. Much ground work needs to be done before launching.  Instead we recommend pilot testing so that a year from now, Philhealth can present to us more details and we would be in a better position to grant the same

So for the actual budget breakdown:

-The budget of DOH (Office of the Secretary) and its attached agencies for fiscal year 2021, with a total budget of Php 212,732,450,000, broken down as follows:

-DOH OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY with total new appropriations of Php 136,086,935,000. This is Php 35 Billion higher than the 2020 GAA amount, but Php 25 Billion lower than the adjusted 2020 budget considering Bayanihan 1 and 2.

-DOH’s ATTACHED AGENCIES AND CORPORATIONS, including:

-NATIONAL NUTRITION COUNCIL (NNC) with total new appropriations of Php 488,021,000

-PHILIPPINE HEALTH INSURANCE CORPORATION (PHILHEALTH) with total new appropriations of Php 71,353,360,000

-LUNG CENTER OF THE PHILIPPINES with total new appropriations of Php 504,997,000

-NATIONAL KIDNEY AND TRANSPLANT INSTITUTE with total new appropriations of Php 1,272,442,000

-PHILIPPINE CHILDREN’S MEDICAL CENTER with total new appropriations of Php 1,094,375,000

-PHILIPPINE HEART CENTER with total new appropriations of Php 1,787,827,000; and

-PHILIPPINE INSTITUTE OF TRADITIONAL AND ALTERNATIVE HEALTH CARE with total new appropriations of Php 144,493,000

Dear colleagues, we hope to continue working with all of you in passing a budget that can support the health needs of our people and plug the gaps, which have also given rise to inefficiencies and could possibly lead to patterns of fraud within the healthcare system.

Maraming salamat. I am now ready to accept questions.#

Statement on the resumption of training for student-athletes

I’d like to join the coaches and other stakeholders in expressing my serious concerns on the resumption of training for college and university student-athletes during this time of COVID-19.

Let’s start with the law, Republic Act 10676 also known as the Student-Athletes Protection Act,  which I principally authored and sponsored. Section 2 of the law provides that student-athletes are first & foremost students. It further states that the obligation of schools & athletic associations to ensure that they attain quality education should remain a priority.

So before we even start talking about the resumption of training, let me ask, how is their schooling? Are they getting the support they need for their education? I know many of them have returned to their homes in the provinces where access to WiFi might be weak or even non-existent. Many of them are also scholars and are in need of financial assistance. How about tutorials? In pre-COVID times, many athletes would spend at least 12 hours a week training, hours that other students spend studying. Some had access to tutorials then. What about now, when both online and modular education are faced with even more challenges?

As a former student-athlete and member of the PH Women’s Volleyball Team, and also as a mother of two student-athletes, I have always believed in prioritizing studies over training. It’s all about finding balance. Has that changed now because of COVID-19? Because all this talk about training without any mention of the educational needs of the student-athletes seems to be a distortion of our priorities.

I also happen to chair the Senate Finance l Subcommittee that oversees the proposed budget for higher education. I’m very cognizant of the concerns of colleges & universities in ensuring the safety and protection of students, teachers, and employees against the COVID-19 virus.  Thus, as early as the budget hearings I held in September, I have already expressed my concern about this issue when I first heard about the possible resumption of student-athletes’ training.

Professional sports associations such as the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and the Philippine Football League (PFL) already started training and conducting games. And despite the safety and security measures that they implemented, a PBA player and 9 PFL players were recently diagnosed with COVID-19 in their pro league bubbles. Are the schools prepared to spend for the bubbles, the isolated quarters, and the regular testing, in addition to the usual training expenses?  From my own experience as a soccer mom, many schools cannot even ensure a sufficient budget for the medical expenses incurred by their student-athletes.  How will they take on the full responsibility of securing the welfare of student-athletes, many of whom are below 21 years old, if they get mass infected by the virus?

These incidents reveal that while we still do not have a vaccine for COVID-19, the risks of transmission & infection are high, even in sports leagues & training bubbles administered by professional leagues, where strict health & safety protocols are being observed and spent for.

The move to resume training was justified by the need for student-athletes to be “mentally and physically fit.” But why are we limiting it to student-athletes? Don’t all students have the right to be mentally and physically fit?

I’m all for being fit & recognizing exercise as a vital component of mental health, especially during this time of COVID-19. This should be a program for all students that can be integrated in their study schedules from home. Breathing exercises, yoga stretches, cardio and strength training that do not require much space and equipment can easily be designed by fitness experts. But to resume student-athletes’ training in an unsecured environment is an entirely different matter. I’m glad many coaches also aired their concerns. Like many, I’m an avid UAAP fan who looks forward to weekends of watching games but this would have to wait.#

Pia cites UP’s high global ranking in research citations

Senator Pia S. Cayetano congratulated the University of the Philippines (UP)  for the high scores it obtained in the latest World University Rankings for its clinical, pre-clinical, and health research citations, noting that Philippine universities have lagged behind in the area of research for the past decades, but UP is  finally putting us on the map of top universities of the world.

 

“Most of us may not be aware of it, but UP now ranks among the world’s top universities in terms of citations for clinical, pre-clinical, and health subjects,” Cayetano shared, following Monday’s (Sept. 21) Senate Committee on Finance hearing on the proposed 2021 budget for the UP system, State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).

 

“This is great news coming at a time when the country is realizing how investments in research are crucial to addressing public health emergencies like COVID-19. Despite UP being cited, our overall research capability as a country remains low,” added the Vice Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Finance overseeing the budget for health and education.

 

The senator was referring to the 2021 Times Higher Education World University Rankings (THE-WUR), wherein UP’s citation score for its clinical, pre-clinical, and health research (91.9%) ranked higher than some of the world’s top universities, including University of Oxford (74%), University of Cambridge (68.8%), and Harvard University (66.7%).

 

“UP’s high score is an indicator of the impact and influence of its research, which researchers from other countries have cited for succeeding studies and possible innovations,” she explained.

 

Cayetano added that “strategic investments in public health research and innovation would allow the country to catch up with some of our neighbors in Southeast Asia which have been able to handle COVID-19 more efficiently using advanced science and technology.”

 

“We act surprised that our neighbors, like Thailand and Vietnam, are already developing a vaccine, when in fact, we have not been investing in research laboratories for decades,” she stressed.

 

On the other hand, Cayetano noted that funding for the research budget of the 111 other SUCs in the country is very low compared to the research expenditures of some of our ASEAN neighbors.

 

“Sadly, the budget for research for all the SUCs that Senator Joel Villanueva proposed and that we supported in the 2020 budget, was one of the items that was realigned for COVID response. The same happened to the research budget for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and futures thinking,” noted Cayetano, the Chairperson of the Senate Committee on SDGs, Innovation, and Futures Thinking.

 

As reported before the committee by Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC) President Dr. Tirso Ronquillo, government funding for SUCs’ research and technical advisory extension programs represent just 3% and 2%, respectively, of the P64.7-billion proposed SUCs budget this year.

 

Overall, Dr. Ronquillo noted that the country’s budget for research and development only represents 0.16% of our GDP, which is lower compared to Singapore (1.94%), Malaysia (1.44%), Thailand (1%), and Vietnam (0.53%).

 

“Our finance committee chair, Sen. Sonny Angara understands and supports the need for funding in research. We will work together to ensure we have a strong budget for research for 2021. We already have the foundation and potential. We just need to translate these into concrete programs to better serve the needs of Filipinos,” Cayetano concluded.#

University of the Philippines (UP) President Danilo Concepcion presents a slide to Senate Finance Committee Vice Chair Sen. Pia S. Cayetano showing how UP’s citation scores for its for clinical, pre-clinical, and health subjects outranked some the world’s top universities, including Oxford, Cambridge, and Harvard in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings (THE-WUR).