Senators air concerns on overlapping functions among virology institute, RITM, other research agencies
MANILA, Philippines — Some senators fear that some functions of the proposed Virology Science and Technology Institute of the Philippines (VIP) may overlap with that of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and other research agencies.
During a hearing of the Senate committee on science and technology on Senate Bill No. 1543 that seeks to establish the institute, committee chair Senator Nancy Binay pointed out that there are several agencies whose functions also overlap with other government bodies.
“In fact maraming ahensya ngayon na dapat function lang ng DA (Department of Agriculture) pero nag-o-overlap na with another agency and nakikita natin na that maybe the dilemma for this institute [is for it] na hindi talaga mag-ooverlap with RITM and other research agencies,” she said.
(In fact, there are a lot of agencies whose functions are the same as those of DA but also overlap with other agencies. We see that maybe the dilemma for this institute is it may overlap with RITM and other research agencies.)
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian agreed with Binay, but said he supports the creation of the institute.
“Precisely. I share your views. In principle, I support this virology institute. Definitely we need to conduct more research. In fact we have to conduct research even in the absence of a pandemic,” he told Binay.
Based on DOST’s presentation at the hearing, the VIP as an attached agency of the DOST shall serve as the premier research and development institute in the field of virology, encompassing all areas in viruses and viral diseases in humans, plants, and animals.
During the hearing, Gatchalian questioned why the institute should be under the jurisdiction of the DOST and not of the Department of Health, saying that “obviously, this institution will have to deal with health concerns.”
Binay, meanwhile, pointed out that some powers from other agencies may be transferred to the VIP and expressed doubt if such agencies will be willing to have some of their research powers transferred to the institute.
“Ang magiging problema talaga, I think may mga functions ‘yung RITM na mukhang hindi ma-a-avoid na mag-o-overlap eh. I don’t know kung nakikita ng mga kasamahan ko sa senador na mukhang at some point, pag gumalaw na kayo, pag naging operational na, may mga functions na mukhang mag-o-overlap pa rin,” she added.
(The real problem that may occur is there are functions of RITM that could inevitably overlap with the VIP. I don’t know if my fellow senators can see this, but at some point, when you start to operate, there are certain functions that could overlap.)
But according to DOST Secretary Fortunato de la Peña, both the DOST and the DOH, which has jurisdiction over the RITM, will be involved in the governing board of the VIP, which in turn could be a safeguard to prevent the overlapping of functions.
Jaime Montoya, executive director of the DOST’s Philippine Council for Health Research and Development, acknowledged that overlapping of functions may not be avoided, but assured that there are certain systems in place to help prevent such.
He said there is close coordination between the DOST and other agencies to identify which kind of research is currently being undertaken to avoid duplication.
Senator Imee Marcos, for her part, also said functions of the VIP should be well-defined to avoid overlapping of roles.
“We all know that we are sorely in need of research and virology vaccination,” she said. “Kaya nga lang dapat maisaayos para walang overlap (But we have to iron it out so there will be no overlapping).”
Senator Panfilo Lacson, who introduced the bill at the Senate, then asked assurance from the DOST that the functions of the VIP will not spill over with that of the RITM and other research agencies.
“Yes, senator, we give you that assurance,” De la Peña responded.
“DOH can actually be asked as to how we relate with each other as regards to research and never was there any complaint from the DOH about overlapping because we really have a system to ensure that there is no overlap. We assure you,” he added.
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