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The Late Miriam Santiago Filed Pandemic Preparedness Bill in 2013, But It’s Still ‘Pending’

In 2013, nearly 7 years before the COVID-19 pandemic, the late Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago filed Senate Bill no. 1573, entitled the “Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act.” It aimed to prepare the country for pandemic and various hazards. But as of March 2020, the bill remains “pending in the committee”!
With 803 confirmed cases as of March 27, the Philippines is struggling as it tries to contain the spread of COVID-19 across the country. While many places have been placed under community quarantine, some in semi-lockdown under enhanced community quarantine, the virus continues to spread rapidly across Metro Manila and other parts of the country.
Photo credit: ABS-CBN News
A lot of people fear that the numbers will continue to rise sharply in the coming weeks. That’s alarming, particularly because the Philippines has already lost a total of nine doctors to COVID-19 – and there are many who remain in ICU over the condition.
Many netizens are now wishing that the other senators had made this bill a priority because it is for national safety! Sadly, other bills were deemed more important.
With the Philippines not really being so affected by the outbreaks of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), the lawmakers didn’t think this pandemic preparedness bill was important.
Photo credit: Rappler
The other senators should have listened to her. After all, the late senator has the reputation for being one of the most brilliant minds in the Philippine government. Sadly, her foresight was ignored.
“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.”
Had it been passed into law, this bill would have saved so many lives in the Philippines. There wouldn’t be a rapid, steady spread of COVID-19 because the local officials would know what to do. Everyone would have been prepared of what might happen, even before it happened!
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” the senator reminded in the bill which was filed on September 5, 2013.
The law would have mandated the Department of Health (DOH) to undergo evaluation, planning, organizing and training to improve the country’s preparedness should there be a public health emergency, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The Health Secretary will spearhead the creation of a national health strategy that will address public health emergencies. Such would include “plans for optimizing a coordinated and flexible approach to the medical surge capacity of hospitals, other health care facilities, critical care and trauma care, and emergency medical systems.”
Just like the army reserve, there will also be a “medical reserve corps” which will be composed of volunteer health professionals such as doctors, nurses, nurse assistants, hospital orderlies, etc. If the need arises, they will be called into duty.
The DOH is currently trying to activate this by calling for medical volunteers, but many are now too scared to take up the offer.
To manage the crisis, there would also be a task force composed of the DOH, the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), the National Security Adviser, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).
Brilliant bill, right? Had this been passed into law, the Philippines would have been able to respond in a better manner and the government wouldn’t be clueless as to how it would manage a pandemic that’s affected over 800 people in the Philippines as of press time.
But it’s sad that the “legislative status” of Senate Bill no. 1573 remains “pending in the committee”, according to the Senate’s official website.

Sen. Miriam Not a Psychic

As screenshots of the bill circulated on social media, many people think that Sen. Miriam must have been a psychic for predicting COVID-19. The truth is that the senator was merely acting on recommendations from health experts at the time.
In 2012, the world has seen an outbreak of MERS. It was worse than SARS. It had a higher mortality rate of 862 out of 2,506 MARS cases compared with the 813 out of 8,437 SARS cases.
MERS was described at the time as “the single biggest worldwide public health threat”, leading world health experts to conduct emergency international meetings to find a way to stop the mysterious virus from spreading.
SARS and MERS are gone, but COVID-19 overtook the two virus outbreaks in leaps and bounds. The world has lost a total of 23,235 from 509,164 confirmed COVID-19 cases, from World Health Organization (WHO) data as of March 27, 10:00 CET.
That’s very alarming! We hope that when this is all over and the Senate is back in session, they would tackle this bill and make it as #1 priority!
Here’s the full text of the senate bill filed by the late Sen. Miriam:


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