Press Releases

Salceda renews calls for enactment of CDC charter as monkeypox fears surface; House tax chair says infectious diseases to grow in scale and number as world loses natural habitats

June 13th, 2022

House Ways and Means Chair Joey Sarte Salceda (Albay, 2nd district) has called on colleagues in the 19th Congress to enact the Center for Disease Control charter, which Salceda principally authored, as experts suggest that monkeypox infections may be harder to detect or diagnose.

Salceda made the appeal in response to an advisory from the US Center for Disease Control that cases of monkeypox that are being detected at the moment do not necessarily display the usual symptoms, making the disease more difficult to diagnose.

“We have seen presentations of monkeypox that are mild and sometimes only limited areas of the body, which differs from the classic presentation seen in endemic countries in Western Central Africa,” said Rochelle Walensky, head of the CDC. As of June 9, around 1,300 cases had been identified worldwide.

“These infections, whether mild or serious, will come to the Philippines. As I’ve learned in my term as Governor of Albay, nature will come at you, so you have to have the capacity to deal with it. You have to have the institutions, the surge capacity, the culture, and the resources to adapt,” Salceda said.

“We will get more zoonotic diseases, or diseases that come from animals, as the world begins to lose more natural habitats to farming or urbanization. That will mean more interactions between humans and wild animals, and therefore, more chances of zoonosis.”

“Of course, part of the long-term solution is to prevent these habitats from being denuded. As one of the world’s most biodiverse countries, we have to play a big part in that. And we have to ask the world for help in preventing the loss of natural habitats in the country.”

“When I was Governor of Albay, we were among the few places in the world to grow our forest cover, instead of shrinking them. So, it’s definitely part of the solution.”

“But, in the short-run, we need to brace ourselves for more infectious diseases like monkeypox, like COVID-19, like human-infectious avian flu, and others. These things will come more often, as habitats decline, as climate change accelerates disruptions in nature, and as worldwide travel resumes.”

Salceda’s proposal would have created a Center for Disease Control and Prevention, an umbrella for existing infectious disease units of the country, with expanded health emergency powers, and with a staff complement of trained responders to “sudden-onset” health emergencies such as COVID-19. The unit would have separated infectious diseases from the core bureaucracy of the Department of Health, but would have kept it attached to the Secretary of Health.

Salceda says “the separation and capacitation is necessary, because infectious diseases of a mass scale are not ordinary health concerns. They require a capacity to deal with waves, as opposed to the more predictable concerns from lifestyle or chronic diseases.”

“I hope President Marcos will also make it his priority, as PRRD did. Sayang, it was sponsored in the Senate floor, but there was not enough time in the 18th Congress.”

“So, I will refile it, and this time, we will hopefully be able to get it through Congress. Because the infections you want to deal with will not go away.”

No cases of monkeypox have been reported in the Philippines yet, but the Department of Health has earlier announced its measures to prepare for the disease.

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