MANILA, Philippines – Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri is urging the government to immediately mass-produce the test kits developed by local scientists for the detection of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country.
The test kits were developed by local scientists at the University of the Philippines-National Institute of Health (UPNIH) through funding provided by the Department of Science and Technology.
Its public use has been given a greenlight by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Tuesday.
“I urge the government and UP (University of the Philippines) if supplemental budget is necessary for this, I am more than willing to sponsor the measure,” Zubiri said in a statement issued Tuesday.
“Since this is more affordable and more accessible, we will able to cater to more patients,” he added.
He also thanked local scientists for this timely achievement after health authorities earlier revealed they have limited test kits amid rising coronavirus cases in the country.
“Thank you to our UP scientists for this speedy answer to our test kit problem. One reason for the growing panic in the past few days has been the severe lack of testing kits-we had only 2,000 testing kits, which is simply not enough to cater to our population, even just in Metro Manila,” he said.
“With UP’s test kits, we can now more have a better diagnostic process for the virus, and hopefully, this will allow us to develop a better containment strategy as well, as we find out which areas have the most cases,” he added.
Senator Panfilo Lacson also believes that the new test kits for coronavirus will help the government in dealing with the COVID-19 threat.
“Despite measly state support, our local scientists have given us a major boost – and much-needed hope – in dealing with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), by way of test kits developed by local experts at the UPNIH,” he said in a separate statement issued Wednesday.
“Tests using these kits will cost less than 1/6 of those using imported kits,” he added.
Lacson also reiterated his proposal to raise the budgetary allocation for research and development, saying “it is high time our government throw its support behind our homegrown scientists.”
“I have repeatedly raised the issue of the minuscule budgetary allocation for research and development (R&D) in the national budget year in, year out – an average of, lo and behold, 0.4% of the annual budget from 2016 to 2020, including 0.39% for 2020,” he said.
“For the same five-year period, the DOST’s average budget is only P20 billion or a meager 0.56% against the trillions of pesos that we pass every year as our national budget,” he added.
Lacson believes that local scientists can contribute more if they are given adequate support by the government.
“Had our homegrown scientists been given the much-needed additional budgetary support for R&D, who knows how much more they can contribute? As it is, by not supporting them adequately, we’re wasting their talents and opportunities to help our nation,” he said.
“This should be a wake-up call for our government officials who do not invest in research and development (R&D) through the budget,” he added.
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