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House panel blocks PH virology institute bill

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A proposal to establish the nation’s first public agency specializing in the study and application of virus technology was accepted by the House Committee on Science and Technology and Committee on Health on Thursday.

The two panels agreed to the alternative bill to create the Philippines Virology Institute during a combined hearing.

The institution “must function as the preeminent research and development institute in the field of virology, including all areas in viruses and viral diseases in humans, plants, and animals,” according to the law.

The institute will collaborate with foreign organizations and carry out ground-breaking research that will expand the nation’s understanding of virology.

It would also give scientists from home and abroad a place to collaborate on research into viruses that are significant for the agricultural, industrial, clinical, and environmental sectors.

The Department of Science and Technology would be in charge of the institute.

A concrete step and strategic response to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, according to Speaker Martin Romualdez and Rep. Yedda Romualdez of the Tingog Party-list, is the proposed establishment of the Philippine virology institute. It also ensures the nation’s public health emergency preparedness and response.

“The Covid-19 pandemic phenomena clearly showed how quickly novel viruses and their mutations can spread over the world and cause suffering. There can be no doubt that vigorous research, accelerating development in the field of virology, and application of advancements in technology for maximum gains in the campaign for sustainable public health responses are the sources of our best hope as a species for the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases and viral infections in humans, as well as in plants and animals, they said.

Rep. Joey Salceda of Albay, the measure’s sponsor, and author, claimed that during the pandemic, nations having serum institutes had speedier access to vaccines and a quicker return to normalcy.

Given that agriculture necessitates virologic investigation, he asserted that vaccines and virus-related technology are not just for human use.

“Tungro, a virus, is the major danger to many rice farmers in the nation. A virus causes African swine sickness. Our understanding of viruses underpins much of our food security, he said.

In addition to the commercialization of innovations serving as the institute’s principal funding source, he recommended that the tax exemptions and the financial provisions for the organization be preserved.

The Committee on Ways and Means recognizes the value of the tax exemptions “given the overriding importance of the institute, particularly as they correspond with our customary tax regulations anyhow,” he said.

He expressed optimism that the bill would be passed by the end of 2022 or the beginning of 2023.

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