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Philippines Bill Creating CDC Enshrines Pandemic Powers for the Department of Health and Government Agencies. Enshrines Obedience to WHO / IHR, Provides Permanent Indemnity for Commodities (Vaccines).
While such a consolidating act may be timely, it risks loss of sovereignty and removal of independent scrutiny of measures. Far more reveiw, debate, and revision may be warranted.
The bill creating a Philippines CDC has passed it’s 3rd reading at the Senate on 6th December 2022. It was reported as the creation of a virology institute.
Covid Call to Humanity is raising an alarm over this bill and is sharing a petition to have this bill halted.
Here is the DOH pandemic bill that has just passed 3rd reading and is now available for public scrutiny. Taking a closer look, the reporting that this bill simply setting up a virology institute, very much understates the scope and breadth of the new agency. Instead, it is setting up a Philippines Center for Disease Prevention and Control, Defining Its Powers and Functions, and appropriating funds. This agency shall be directly under DOH.
Some initial comments on key points that jumped out in my first lay person reading below. Many more will become apparent in time, for sure, and as sharp legal minds conduct further reviews!
While the intent looks good at first glance and streamlining and centralizing health and testing functions should be beneficial, some of the provisions in the bill are highly concerning! Most particularly the broad definitions and sweeping powers. This bill should be subject for very detailed scrutiny and careful implementing rules and regulations to avoid misuse of the sweeping powers enshrined.
This act specifically deals with “commodities”, which are defined as health products, vaccines being the first inclusion in the definition. Hereafter read commodities = vaccines!
The definition of disease is so broad as to include everything. The last line is particularly concerning: “or may be the result of a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental, and behavioral factors”. Can a person be labelled as diseased based on genetic or behavioral factors alone?
The definition also includes reference to International Health Regulations (IHR) and international agreements managed by WHO. Implying that Philippines must meet these IHR standards:
Public health emergency includes “threat” or “imminent threat”. As declared by whom? This bill feels to me to be following the provisions of / be designed to plug into the proposed WHO Pandemic Treaty!
The bill sets out that a public health emergency may be caused by:
Public health emergency creating high probability of any of five listed outcomes.
Number IV? “significant risk to the health of citizens of other countries”… Who judges this? An example: Philippines is endemic for Tuberculosis (TB). TB could pose a risk to citizens of other countries? Will the Philippines be placed under a public health emergency for TB?
Number V? Trade and travel restrictions? These would be caused by Government response measures. Does this mean that the Government can create a public health emergency simply by causing trade and travel restrictions, for a purposed threat, or imminent threat?
The concern is that the very breadth of these definitions will leave them open to all sorts of interpretations both beneficial, and possibly nefarious.
Item 5, deals with communication and a Communications Office. Strategic communication plans. Approval of communication materials, aligned with the approved communication plans. A single agency to manage communication around health crises. Ministry of Truth?
The Act Provides Mechanism for Special Regulatory Authorization of Commodities. This gives similar power to those granted under the declared current State of Emergency and “Emergency Use Authorizations”.
Procurement of commodities to be used in public health emergencies shall not be required to undergo Health Technology Assessment and Evidence Review. No independent oversight?
Procurement of commodities for use in public health emergencies may be made on recommendation by WHO, Health Technology Assessment Council, and others. DOH may now procure vaccines recommended by WHO without undergoing HTAC assessment?
DOH and their authorized parties may immediately enter into expedited procurement arrangements with international agencies.
Section 21. Indemnity from Liability Clause for anything related to delivery of administration of, and adverse outcomes related to the Commodities. This clause effective extends the current EUA freedom from liability clauses. This Indemnity from Liability is surely why DOH is insisting that this bill should be in place prior to the lifting of the current state of emergency!
Other miscellaneous clauses:
Authority to Solicit, et. al. I suspect that many, many noses with vested interests will be feeding and be planted at this table! Guaranteed! A feeding frenzy may well ensue around this clause!
This bill includes both timely measures and highly concerning broad and sweeping powers. Where will the oversight lie? Will the new Philippines CDC be an agency of the WHO and subject to IHR (International Health Regulations) or will it be an autonomous Philippines agency? Will this act plug into the WHO pandemic treaty (still under development and much opposition)?
This bill is only just released for public scrutiny! Such a bill must be subject to the magnifying glass, and a most educated and stringent debate? How can this be approved in merely 3 readings? The provisions are onerous and far reaching.