In 2013, at the height of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-COV) outbreak, the late Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago filed Senate Bill No. 1573 or the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act. The bill called for the creation of a national health strategy in cases of pandemics and national emergencies.
Sadly, the bill was largely ignored at the senate.
The late senator deemed it urgent to draft and file the bill, considering that the MERS-COV, a coronavirus strain that was deadlier than the 2002 SARS outbreak, could cause unimaginable chaos if it were to spread in the Philippines.
According to the official Senate website, Santiago’s bill 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.”
The bill would have solved the deficiencies we are experiencing today.
In the first two weeks since the declaration of a lockdown on March 15, confusion and lack of coordination among various government agencies and local government units resulted in contradicting statements, orders, and advisories.
Under Santiago’s bill, the DOH will create a pandemic strategy, and will be the lead agency that will issue directives to the Department of the Interior and Local Government or DILG, the Philippine Red Cross, and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council or NDRRMC.
The bill also calls for the creation of an emergency fund every fiscal year for pandemics and other emergencies. If this were in effect today, the president would not have needed to realign and reallocate budgets or unspent money that has already been earmarked for various government agencies.
Medical Reserve Corps will address frontliners’ manpower shortage.
The bill also provides the creation of a Medical Reserve Corps that will be composed of volunteer health professionals who will be called into duty if a national health emergency arises.
To view the complete Senate Bill No. 1573 or the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act, follow this link.
Introduced by Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago
The Constitution, Article 11, Section 15, provides that “the State shall protect and
promote the right to health ofthe people and instill health consciousness among them.”
A “public health emergency” is defined as an occurrence or imminent threat of an illness
or health condition, caused by bio terrorism, epidemic or pandemic disease, or a novel and highly
fatal infectious agent or biological toxin, that poses a substantial risk of a significant number of
human facilities or incidents or permanent or long-term disability (WHO/DCD, 2001).
History has seen the occurrence of plagues, calamities, and outbreaks which have claimed
huge parts of the population. For instance, the Black Death (also known as the Black Plague or
Bubonic Plague) was one of the deadliest pandemics in human history, widely thought to have
been caused by a bacterium named .,
Yersinia ,pestis, but recently .,.. attributed by some to other .
diseases. The total number of deaths worldwide was estimated at 75 million people,
approximately 25-50 million of which occurred in Europe.
In June 2013, health experts started emergency international meetings to devise ways of
combating a mysterious virus that has been described as the single biggest worldwide public
health threat. Officials and doctors gathered in Cairo to examine ways of tackling the Middle
East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), feared to be a new pandemic deadlier than SARS. SARS
refers to Severe acute respiratory syndrome, Ii viral respiratory disease of zoonotic origin caused
by the SARS coronavirus (SARS-Co V). Between November 2002 and July 2003, an outbreak of
SARS in Southern China caused an eventual 8,273 cases and 775 deaths reported in multiple
The MERS virus has displayed an alarmingly high fatality rate. It has caused death in
about 60 percent of patients so far, with 75 percent of cases in men and most in people with
serious health conditions. There are currently no known treatments. Margaret Chan, WHO
director-general, previously called MERS a “threat to the entire world”.
There is an old adage that states that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
This bill is built upon such wisdom by seeking 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.
Preparedness refers to activities and measures taken in advance to ensure effective
response to the impact of hazards, including the issuance of timely and effective early warnings
and the temporary evacuation of people and property from threatened locations. It also refers to
pre-disaster activities, including an o~erall slfategy, policies, and institutional and management
structures, that are geared to helping at-risk communities safeguard their lives and assets by
being alert to hazards and taking appropriate action in the face of an imminent threat or the
actual onset of a disaster.
This bill gives the Department of Health the mandate to undertake measures, such as
evaluation, planning, organizing, and training, to improve national preparedness for public health
4~.,..v-. SOR SA”NTI¥O A/~
SIXTEENTH CONGRESS OF THE REPUBLIC )
OF THE PHILIPPINES )
First Regular Session )
“13 SEP -5 P5 :}7
______________________ ~ ____ ~a.~r.~~~,~.~l~.~.~ .R””’···\’·”’H flY: .. ~ ~!~ ~ Introduced by Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago 1 AN ACT 2 STRENGTHENING NATIONAL PREPAREDNESS AND RESPONSE TO PUBLIC HEALTH 3 EMERGENCIES Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the Philippines in Congress assembled: 4 SECTION 1. Short Title. – This Act shall be known as the “Pandemic and All-Hazards 5 Preparedness Act.” 6 SECTION 2. Creation of a National Health Strategy for Public Health Emergencies. – 7 The Secretary of Health shall spearhead the creation of a national health strategy to address 8 public health emergencies. This strategy shall provide for integrated policy coordination and 9 strategic direction with respect to all matters related to national public health and medical 10 preparedness and execution and deployment of national response before, during, and following 11 public health emergencies. 12 SECTION 3. Components of a National Health Strategy. – The National Health Strategy 13 shall include: 14 (A) Provisions for increasing the preparedness, response capabilities, and surge 15 capacity of ambulatory care facilities, dental health facilities, and critical care service systems; 16 (B) Plans for optimizing a coordinated and flexible approach to the medical surge 17 capacity of hospitals, other health care faciliti,es, critical care, and trauma care and emergency 18 medical systems; 19 (C) Provisions taking into account the unique needs of individuals with disabilities in 20 a public health emergency; 1 1 (D) Strategic initiatives to advance countermeasures to diagnose, mitigate, prevent, or 2 treat harm from any biological agent or toxin or any chemical, radiological, or nuclear agent or 3 agents, whether naturally, occurring, unintentional, or deliberate; 4 (e) Conduct OF periodic evaluations of national and local preparedness and response 5 capabilities which shall include drill~ and exercises to ensure’medical surge capacity for events· 6 without notice. 7 SECTION 4. Creation of Task Force on Public Emergencies, – (A) A task force under 8 the control of the Secretary of Health shall be established in order to conduct research necessary 9 for the creation of the Strategy. The Task Force shall be composed of representatives from: 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 (I) (2) (3) (4) (5) (B) (1) (2) (3) (4) The Department of Health; The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC); The Department ofInterior and Local Government (DILG); The National Security Adviser; and The Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC). The Task Force shall: Monitor emerging issues and concerns as they relate to medical and public health preparedness and response for at-risk individuals in the event of a public health emergency; Identify and minimize gaps, duplication and other inefficiencies in medical and public health preparedness and response activities and the actions necessary to overcome these obstacles; Disseminate and update novel and best practices of outreach to and care of at-risk individuals before, during, and, following public health emergencies in as timely a. manner as is practicable, including from the time a public health threat is . f ~,- identified; and Ensure that public health and medical information distributed by the government during a public health emergency is delivered in a manner that takes into account 2 .. ———-‘———————
1 the range of communication needs of the intended recipients, including at-risk
3 SECTION 5. Creation of Medical Reserve Corps. – The Secretary of Health shall
4 establish a medical reserve corps composed of volunteer health professionals. The Medical
5 Reserve Corps shall be called into duty if needed during public health emergencies.
6 SECTION 6. Authorization of Appropriations. – To carry out the provisions of this Act,
7 there are authorized to be appropriated such sums as may be necessary for each fiscal year;
8 SECTION 7. Separability Clause. – If any provision or part thereof is held invalid or
9 unconstitutional, the remainder of the law or the provision not otherwise affected shall remain
10 valid and subsisting.
11 SECTION 8. Repealing Clause. – Any law, presidential decree or issuance, executive
12 order, letter of instruction, administrative’ order, rule, or regulation contrary to or inconsistent
13 with the provisions of this Act is hereby repealed, modified, or amended accordingly.
14 SECTION 9. Effectivity Clause. – This Act shall take effect fifteen (15) days after its
15 publication in at least two (2) newspapers of general circulation.