Cebu Rep. Eduardo Gullas said Sunday that the government has set aside P283 million for the initial operation of the Virology Science and Technology Institute next year.
Gullas said that the institute, which is tasked to study emerging viruses, including those found in wildlife animals, has been given allocation under the 2021 proposed national budget.
“Once fully operational, the VSTI will enable Filipino scientists to identify evolving viruses in different species of animals,” Gullas, a member of the House Committee on Appropriations, said.
“They will then be in a position to ascertain those viruses that could pose the greatest risk of infecting people and spreading between people,” he added.
Gullas noted that the VSTI will establish its facilities at the Clark Special Economic Zone in Tarlac and operate under the supervision of the Department of Science and Technology.
“The institute is expected to run a modern laboratory with high biosafety measures,” he said.
Zambales Rep. Cheryl Deloso Montalla had batted for the creation of the institute, saying that it would cut the country’s dependence from other countries as far as the development and production of vaccines is concerned.
She explained that the institute is expected to conduct innovative scientific researches on viral agents requiring high or maximum containment (biosafety level 2 to 4) and develop diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics against these viral agents.
Montalla is one of the authors of the seven bills filed in the House of Representatives that seek to institutionalize the Philippine Virology Science and Technology Institute or VIP.
The House Committee on Health and the COVID-19 Response Cluster of the Defeat COVID-19 Ad Hoc Committee created a Technical Working Group to consolidate the seven measures, including Montalla’s House Bill No. 6798.
Montalla assured the public that the VIP bill calls for strict implementation of biosafety and biosecurity protocols and measures.
According to her, the regulation of private virology laboratories and the proper disposal of wastes from laboratories will be part of the measure to ensure public safety.
The House leader said the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa City under the Department of Health will remains operating as the medical laboratory for new diseases and pandemics while VIP will serve as the primary research and development unit.