Presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (File photo)

MANILA – Against a backdrop of a waning pandemic and a bright prospect of a nation rising from challenges brought about by Covid19, presidential candidate Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. on Thursday said there is a need to revisit the pandemic preparedness bill that was filed by former senator Miriam Santiago.

The move is to ensure “that the country will be ready to address any health issue of this magnitude that could threaten and disrupt public health system in the future.”

Santiago, who ran for president with Marcos as her running-mate during the 2016 elections, filed Senate Bill No. 1573, or the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act at the height of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-COV) outbreak in 2013.

The bill called for the creation of a national health strategy in cases of pandemics and national emergencies and seeks to “strengthen national response and preparedness for public health emergencies, such as those which result from natural disasters and severe weather, recent outbreaks and pandemics, bioterrorism, mass casualties, chemical emergencies, and radiation emergencies.”

“Kahanga-hanga ang kaniyang foresight. Ilang taon bago mangyari ay nakita na niya ito, sayang at hindi ito naging batas. Subalit kung ako ay papalaring mahalal ay isusulong ko na muli itong pag-aralan at tuluyang isabatas upang maging handa tayo sa anumang darating na mga problemang pangkalusugan (Miriam Santiago’s foresight was impressive. A few years before the pandemic happened, she had already seen it, sadly that it didn’t become law. But if I am elected I will push to restudy it and finally sign into law so that we can be prepared for any future health problems),” Marcos said.

Santiago came up with the idea of passing the bill after the MERS-COV, a coronavirus strain that was deadlier than the 2002 SARS outbreak, hit several countries in the Middle East.

Her proposal, which can be described as preventive and way ahead of its time, was widely ignored by her peers.

According to the official Senate website, Santiago’s bill could have solved the problems that the government experienced at the height of the Covid19 pandemic.

Hindi na tayo makakapayag na malito at magkagulo ang pamahalaan dahil sa kawalan ng direksyon at koordinasyon ng iba’t-ibang sangay. Ang nangyari ay nagkanya-kanya ang mga ahensya ng pamahalaan at mga local government units kaya lalong lumala ang problema (We can no longer allow the government to be confused due to the lack of direction and coordination of the various branches. What happened is that government agencies and local government units created their own solutions that worsened the problem),” Marcos said.

He said the government must be prepared to respond immediately to a given situation, and the Santiago bill has laid out the blueprint for “effective emergency response.”

“Nais nating lumikha ang Kagawaran ng Kalusugan ng isang istratehiya kung paano lalabanan ang pandemic at siya na rin ang magiging lead agency na mangangasiwa upang bigyan ng direksyon ang ibang ahensya ng pamahalaan gaya ng (We want the Department of Health to create a strategy on how to fight the pandemic and it will also serve as lead agency that will oversee to give direction to other government agencies like the) Department of the Interior and Local Government, ang National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, at kahit ang (and even) Red Cross,” Marcos said.

Santiago’s bill also called for the creation of an emergency fund every fiscal year for pandemics and other emergencies.

“Kung may nakalaan na pondo para dito, hindi na kailangan pa na mag-realign at mag-reallocate ng budget at sa unang banta pa lamang ng pandemya ay naroon na agad ang pamahalaan para tumugon (if there is funds available for this, there is no need to realign and reallocated the budget, and at the first threat of a pandemic, the government is there immediately to respond),” he added. (PR)