A party-list lawmaker on Monday suggested setting aside a yearly budget of PHP5 billion for pandemic preparedness and response to ensure that the country will be more equipped to fight future public health crises.
Bagong Henerasyon Rep. Bernadette Herrera said the budgetary allocation for pandemic preparedness and response should be a “permanent fixture” in the annual General Appropriations Act, noting that this investment is needed to break the “vicious cycle” of panic and neglect that follows every disease outbreak.
Herrera said the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic has highlighted the country’s vulnerabilities to this health crisis and its socio-economic effects.
“It is high time for the government to start investing in pandemic preparedness and response to help the country fight future pandemics, save lives and cushion their economic impacts as we have seen in this ongoing Covid-19 crisis,” Herrera said.
She said the PHP5-billion allocation annually would ensure adequate financing of the capabilities and infrastructure needed to prevent, identify, contain and respond to infectious disease outbreaks.
“With that amount, we will be able to fund critical public health functions such as disease surveillance, diagnostic laboratories and emergency operations centers, which enable the early identification and containment of outbreaks,” Herrera said. “Such funding would also cover maintenance and replenishment of the stockpile of antivirals, antibiotics and other critical medical supplies including personal protective equipment, and for vaccine purchase.”
Herrera noted that a flurry of proactive public health measures in the form of funding, task forces and renewed interest in vaccine development are seen in the wake of every disease outbreak.
Citing a World Bank study, Herrera said pandemic preparedness is relatively inexpensive and affordable compared to the actual devastating socioeconomic impacts of a pandemic.
A report by the International Working Group on Financing Preparedness (IWG), established by the World Bank, showed that low- and middle-income countries that have calculated the cost of financing preparedness, “the investment required is just USD1 per person per year.”
According to the IWG report, a severe pandemic could result in millions of deaths and cost trillions of dollars, and even smaller outbreaks can cost thousands of lives and cause immense economic damage. (PNA)