(File photo)

MANILA - Officials of the Department of Health (DOH) on Thursday told senators that under the current proposals for the creation of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) will be absorbed by the new entity while retaining its functions.

This was clarified by RITM Director Celia Carlos during the joint hearings of the Senate Committees on Health, Finance and Ways and Means after Senators Pia Cayetano and Nancy Binay asked on the proposed structure of the CDC, and warned of possible overlapping of functions with that of another proposed facility, the Vaccine and Virology Institute.

"Why would the Vaccine and Virology Institute need to be created as opposed to strengthening RITM's function?" asked Cayetano who presided the hearing.

"The research component of the Virology Institute will cover not only research on viruses on humans, but also viruses affecting animals and plants as well. So, it's a very broad mandate for the Virology Institute. Whereas RITM is only focused on researches on humans, specifically on diseases of public health importance," Carlos said.

Carlos explained that apart from the proposal that RITM will retain its current functions and focus, a research agenda will also be created to avoid overlapping.

"They will not overlap with the other focuses of research which are now covered by RITM. There will be an executive board, and the RITM director will be part of that, and that board will determine the research agenda. So maybe the discussions on which agency will take charge of what will be resolved at that level," she said.

DOH's Disease Prevention and Control Bureau Director Razel Nikka Hao told senators that they envision CDC be to be an agency within the DOH structure attached to the Office of the Secretary to be led by a Director General who will be assisted by technical units, which include Health Economic Service, Policy and Planning Office, Administration, Finance and Legal Affairs.

She said the proposed CDC will be composed of Centers for Health Statistics, Epidemiology and Surveillance, Reference Laboratories and Health Evidence.

RITM, on the other hand, is currently composed of the Clinical Research, Laboratory Research, Bioligicals Manufacturing, Administrative and Financial Divisions.

The creation of Virology Institute of the Philippines (VIP) and the National Disease Prevention Management Authority are included in the eight priority measures laid out by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. in his first State of the Nation Address.

There are 11 bills pending in the Senate seeking to create the CDC which were filed by Senators Francis Escudero, Christopher Lawrence Go, Grace Poe, Jinggoy Estrada, Sherwin Gatchalian, Loren Legarda, JV Ejercito, Ramon Revilla Jr., Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and Cayetano. (PNA)