Congress is pushing for the expansion of the Philippine Genome Center to Visayas and Mindanao through the proposed Bayanihan 3 Act as the country grapples with the emergence of more transmissible variants of COVID-19.
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, co-chair of the House economic stimulus and recovery cluster, said they are committed to including the funding in the proposed third Bayanihan package.
“It’s a more basic, tighter Bayanihan package that will deal with our most essential needs, including ayuda, medical assistance, cash-for-work, relief, and medical interventions, including genome sequencing. It is also more flexible so that the Executive can mix and match the allocations as needed,” Salceda said.
“And we are committed to funding the expansion of the Philippine Genome Center. We should have done this much earlier, but now that there is an opening with the economic managers, we will seize the opportunity to fund this need,” he added.
Earlier this month, the Philippine Genome Center sought funding from the government and private sector for the expansion of its coverage to Visayas and Mindanao.
The Center estimated its required funding at an additional P100 million, which Salceda said Bayanihan 3 will fully cover.
“We need the powers to realign, declare savings, and seek other funding sources from the 2021 budget because we are needing more ayuda than we predicted during the budget deliberations. And the budget is quite inflexible without these powers,” Salceda said.
“The genome center is one of the cheapest but lifesaving measures in the proposed Bayanihan 3, especially as different variants pose different risk levels. Tracking what the variants are and where they are is crucial. If you don’t have enough genome sequencing in Visayas and Mindanao, you are walking blindly in about half of the country. We need genome sequencing funding. We can’t fight Delta without it.”