Bong Go calls for review of travel protocols and guidelines to prevent entry of new and emerging COVID-19,

Welcomes approval of travel restrictions for travelers from India

Senator and Chair of the Senate Committee on Health Christopher “Bong” Go urged the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases to continuously review and adjust the travel protocols in place to prevent the entry of new and potentially more infectious COVID-19 variants from other countries into the Philippines.

Following a devastating second wave of COVID-19 infections in India, Go lauded the decision of the government to immediately impose restrictions on travelers coming from the said country. He also issued an urgent appeal to concerned authorities to study the imposition of similar restrictions on inbound travel from other countries, such as Brazil, which have a high number of confirmed and active cases.

“Habang sinusubukan nating masolusyunan ang pagtaas ng mga kaso sa Pilipinas, bantayan din natin ang mga pangyayari sa iba pang parte ng mundo para hindi ito mas lalong makaapekto sa kasalukuyang sitwasyon sa loob ng bansa. Umaapela ako sa gobyerno na pag-aralan ang posibleng pagpapatupad ng travel restrictions sa mga papasok mula sa mga bansa kung saan mataas ang kaso ng COVID-19, gaya ng Brazil, sa lalong madaling panahon,” said Go.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced all travelers coming from India or those with travel history to India within the last 14 days preceding arrival shall be prohibited from entering the Philippines beginning April 29 until May 14.

Meanwhile, passengers already in transit from the abovementioned country or have been to the same within 14 days immediately preceding their arrival to the Philippines, will be required to undergo stricter quarantine and testing protocols.

The B.1.617 variant, which has been blamed for the rise of cases in India, has two notable mutations which have enabled it to transmit at a faster rate from human to human.

In light of these developments, Go implored the Department of Health to take all necessary steps and strengthen all COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, and case isolation and treatment efforts in order to prepare the country for any potential increase in infections.

“Kailangang palaging i-review ang existing border controls at paigtingin lalo ang mga travel restrictions, guidelines, timelines at exemptions na ipinapatupad natin. Maliban dito, paigtingin pa dapat ang mga hakbang ng gobyerno kontra COVID-19, katulad ng mas mabilis na vaccination roll-out, targeted testing, contact tracing, at iba pa,” he appealed.

The Senator further warned the public against complacency. He encouraged them to diligently follow the necessary health and safety protocols issued by the government to keep them safe, such as social distancing, wearing masks and face shields in public, and frequent hand washing.

“Bagamat patuloy ang pagbabakuna, huwag po tayong magkumpyansa. Gawin na natin ang kinakailangan sa lalong madaling panahon para mas maproteksyunan ang ating mga kababayan mula sa sakit na ito. Sa ating mga kababayan, huwag nating sayangin ang lahat ng mga sakripisyo natin simula noong nakaraang taon. Patuloy tayong maging disiplinado sa pagsunod sa mga patakaran,” encouraged Go.

“Magtulungan at makiisa tayo sa bayanihan dahil delikado pa ngayon habang andyan pa ang mga banta ng kalabang hindi naman nakikita. Magmalasakit din tayo sa ating frontliners na patuloy na nagseserbisyo para mailigtas ang buhay ng kapwa nating Pilipino.


Bong Go lauds participation of all sectors in the bayanihan efforts to overcome COVID-19

Reiterates that a whole-of-nation approach is necessary

While the government remains on top of the situation in addressing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go reiterated his call for a whole-of-nation approach to overcome the challenges posed by the new surges of infections worldwide.

“Bawat isa sa atin ay may ginagampanang papel sa laban kontra COVID-19. Bagama’t ginagawa ng gobyerno ang lahat upang mapagaan ang hirap na pinapasan ng ating mga kababayan, talaga namang napakabigat ng pasakit na dulot ng COVID-19 at kailangan ang pagkakaisa ng lahat upang malampasan ito,” Go said.

The Senator lauded the active participation of various sectors in the bayanihan efforts to unburden the poor and vulnerable. He assured that all kinds of initiatives to help fellow Filipinos must be welcomed and commended.

“Kaya ang mga inisyatibo, tulad ng community pantry, ay patunay na katuwang sa labang ito ang partisipasyon at kooperasyon ng lahat ng sektor ng lipunan. Tama lang na magbigay ng tulong ayon sa kaya yung mga may sobra. Kaysa masayang o mag-expire, mabuti nang mapakinabangan ng mga mas nangangailangan,” he said.

“Tandaan natin na hindi ito laban ng gobyerno lamang. Laban ito ng buong sambayanang Pilipino at ng buong mundo. Nakakatuwang makita na nananatiling buhay ang diwa ng bayanihan sa kabila ng sunud-sunod na mga pagsubok na dumadating sa bansa,” he added.

Go further encouraged Filipinos to always prioritize the welfare of the general population and do their part in helping those in need.He added that efforts of various groups to help must be recognized instead of criticized.

“Tulad ng palagi kong sinasabi, kung anumang kabutihan ang pwede nating gawin para sa kapwa ay gawin na natin ngayon. Hindi po ito panahon para magsisihan, magsiraan, o maglamangan pa. Panahon po ito ng pagtutulungan, pagmamalasakit, at pakikiisa sa bayanihan,” he emphasized.

“Walang kulay, walang pinipili, at walang pulitika dapat ang pagtulong. Welcome po lahat ‘yan. Huwag nating gamiting panlaban sa gobyerno ang inisyatibo ng iilan na tumulong sa kapwa nilang Pilipino. Iisa lang naman ang hangarin nating lahat bilang isang komunidad at iyan ay ang kabutihan ng buong bansa,” he added.

Meanwhile, Go also urged the private sector to further refine its safety measures to minimize the risks of transmitting the COVID-19 virus, especially in workplaces, while ensuring that essential business operations remain unhampered.

“We seek everyone’s solidarity in strictly observing the health protocols to ensure that we keep new infections at bay and not further overwhelm our healthcare system,” said Go.

He also asked the government to ramp up the production and distribution of masks, especially to those who cannot afford to buy their own.

“The government must step in to provide these necessities and ensure compliance of the public with minimum health standards,” he emphasized.

The Senator also continued to urge the government to always be inclusive by having an open dialogue with health experts and advocates to come up with viable solutions to various issues.

In particular, he reiterated his appeal for the government to facilitate a thorough scientific study of potential COVID-19 medications and treatments, such as Ivermectin.

“Let me clarify that I am not advocating for the use of any specific drug. We have regulatory processes in place that must be followed to protect the welfare of the public. However, we must keep an open mind so that Filipinos can be given access to any drug that may help prevent or cure COVID-19 as long as it has undergone the right process and is scientifically proven safe and effective,” he explained.

As groups and sectors wait for their turn to get inoculated, Go continues to remind Filipinos to be on the lookout and remain vigilant against the threats of COVID-19.

He also hit back on individuals who sow hate and spread disinformation about the pandemic, saying, “your efforts will not derail our focus in serving our fellow Filipinos with utmost diligence, compassion and empathy.”

Amid the nation’s ongoing battle against the pandemic, Go said that the challenges it brings should unite Filipinos rather than divide them.

“Let us show the world that no crisis can break the spirit of the Filipino people,” he ended.

Bong Go supports efforts to locally manufacture vaccines and establish virology institute

To eventually achieve ‘vaccine self-reliant PH’, preparations must start now

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go underscored the importance of learning from the experiences brought about by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and being more proactive in preparing for other similar crises in the future. In particular, Go emphasized that in order to address the country’s limited vaccine supply and heavy reliance on global sources, preparations and initiatives to locally manufacture vaccines in the Philippines must start now.

Go earlier lauded the ongoing efforts of the national government, in coordination with the private sector, to boost the Philippines’ capabilities to locally manufacture and eventually develop its own vaccines.

In an interview on Saturday, April 17, Go said that President Rodrigo Duterte himself has instructed concerned public officials to expedite government processes for pharmaceutical companies seeking to locally manufacture COVID-19 vaccines in the country.

“Sinabihan niya (Duterte), si (Department of Trade and Industry) Secretary Mon Lopez na kung sakaling may mag-apply na manufacturing company ay tulungan po,” said Go.

“Ang sabi (ng Pangulo), ang ‘bibliya’ (ng gobyerno) dito ay huwag pahirapan, kundi tulungan kaagad ang mga nais tumulong para makapaglagay ng sarili nating manufacturing po ng bakuna,” he added.

Go earlier stressed the need to accelerate arrangements for public-private partnerships in manufacturing vaccines locally, with the DTI at the helm. He urged concerned agencies to support these initiatives and help expedite the setting-up process, but also asked the companies to ensure all requirements are met in accordance with existing laws and regulations.

As the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines remains limited, Go also confirmed that Duterte and Russian President Vladimir Putin, during a phone call on April 13, both stressed the importance of ramping up vaccine production and the need to mobilize Russian vaccines to as many countries as possible.

“Isa po sa ginagawa ng gobyerno, nakikiusap po tayo sa ibang bansa. Ito po ang panahon na kailangan nating makipagtulungan at makiusap sa ibang bansa dahil sila po ang merong supply ng bakuna. Sila po ang merong mga manufacturing company,” said Go.

He added that the government is expecting to receive 500,000 doses of Sputnik V vaccines from Russia soon.

“So, ang sinabi naman po ni Russian President Putin, tutulong sila. Bagama’t wala pong pinangakong numero o kailan, inaasahan po natin na darating ang Sputnik V vaccine mula sa Russia ngayong buwan o sa susunod… na 500,000 doses,” Go mentioned.

“Kasi po initially, ang ibinigay lang nila ay 100,000. Pinakiusapan po sila ng gobyerno na gawing 500,000. I think may unang darating na 20,000 na parang pilot run… kasi pag-aaralan pa ang temperature (for storage) na kailangan. Napakalaking tulong na po ito, pandagdag na sa tuluy-tuloy na pagbabakuna sa ating bansa,” he added.

Meanwhile, Go said that in the long-term, the Department of Science and Technology is presently preparing for the establishment of a virology institute in the Philippines, which will eventually enable the country to develop its own vaccines and other related drugs against diseases.

“Sa ngayon po ay pinag-aaralan ng DOST ‘yan. ‘Yan po ang magandang balita kasi maski si Pangulong Duterte, pabor sa vaccine institute. It should be our long-term goal,” explained Go.

The Senator said that these efforts are intended to avoid similar situations where poorer nations are left with fewer supplies of vaccines as compared to richer and more developed countries that have early on invested in health sciences and medical research.

“Kakasabi lang ng WHO (World Health Organization) na talagang inequitable po ang distribution ng bakuna, so dapat po maghanda tayo. Ang ating gobyerno has allocated PhP50 million in the GAA (General Appropriations Act) for the detailed engineering design para sa institute. It is planned to be built in Tarlac,” he shared.

Citing the unpredictable nature of pandemics, Go highlighted the importance of a more proactive approach to ensure that the country is well-prepared should future health crises occur.

“Hindi natin alam kung kailan darating itong panibagong pandemya sa buhay natin. Huwag na po yung mabibigla nanaman tayo dahil hindi tayo naging handa. Mas mabuting proactive na tayo at pag-aralan natin ang lahat ng puwede nating gawin, dahil talagang mahirap matamaan po nitong pandemyang ganito,” he said.

Bong Go lauds ongoing efforts to locally manufacture and develop vaccines in the Phl

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go lauded the ongoing efforts of the national government, in coordination with the private sector, to boost the Philippines’ capabilities to locally manufacture and eventually develop its own vaccines. He said that this will allow the country to eventually veer away from reliance on the international market for vaccines and other medicines.

“Napakalaki po ng potensyal ng ating bansa na mag-produce ng sarili nating mga gamot at bakuna laban sa samu’t saring mga sakit. Napapanahon na po upang pag-aralan natin kung papaano tayo magiging self-reliant pagdating sa aspetong ito,” reiterated Go.

According to Go, who also serves as Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, this initiative will not only help boost local vaccine supply, but can also help increase production of vaccines in the world market in the future.

In line with this, Go welcomed the active participation and show of interest of various pharmaceutical companies in locally manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines.

Late in March, Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez said that the Board of Investments has been in discussion with companies which are keen on producing COVID-19 vaccines locally.

During a televised meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday, April 15, Department of Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato de la Peña also disclosed that the government is in talks with potential local vaccine manufacturers in a presentation on “Vaccine Self-Reliant Philippines”.

During the said meeting, the DTI also presented its ongoing efforts to help attain vaccine self-reliance by supporting local manufacturing initiatives.

“Bagama’t mid- to long-term solution ito sa ating hangarin na magkaroon ng sapat na supply ng ligtas at epektibong bakuna sa bansa, maging bukas ang ating isipan at suportahan natin ang mga ganitong inisyatibo,” Go said.

“Hindi natin alam kung ano pa ang mga idudulot na problema ng COVID-19 sa susunod na mga buwan. Hindi rin natin alam ano pang pandemya ang haharapin natin sa susunod na mga taon. Mas mabuting maging proactive at handa tayo,” he emphasized further.

Go also stressed the need to accelerate arrangements for public-private partnerships in manufacturing vaccines locally, with the DTI at the helm. He urged concerned agencies to support these initiatives and help expedite the setting-up process, but also asked the companies to ensure all requirements are met in accordance with existing laws and regulations.

“Mas magiging matagumpay ito kung magtutulungan ang gobyerno at ang pribadong sektor. We need to always adopt a whole-of nation approach to overcome these challenges,” he said.

“Hindi ito laban ng gobyerno lamang, laban ito ng buong sambayanang Pilipino at ng buong mundo. Kaya nga po bayanihan ang isinisigaw natin noong simula palang. Bigyan natin ng oportunidad ang lahat na tumulong,” he added.

Meanwhile, Go said that the establishment of a virology institute, which will eventually enable the country to develop its own vaccines and other related drugs against diseases, such as COVID-19, should be the long-term goal.

“It is for this reason that I recently echoed President Duterte’s call to establish a virology institute that will capacitate the country to conduct scientific research initiatives on preventing and treating various viruses and diseases,” he said.

Go said that this initiative is intended to avoid a repetition of the present situation where poorer nations are left with fewer supplies of vaccines as compared to richer and more developed countries that have early on invested in health sciences and medical research.

Acting as a venue for both local and international scientists to collaborate on studying viruses of agricultural, industrial, clinical, and environmental importance, Go mentioned that the proposed institute will serve as the premier research and development institute in the field of virology in the country. It will encompass all areas in viruses and viral diseases in humans, plants, and animals.

The government has already allocated an amount of PhP50 million in the 2021 General Appropriations Act for the detailed engineering design of the virology institute which is planned to be built in New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac. The institute project is one of the projects included in the government’s Build! Build! Build! infrastructure program.

Measures have also been introduced in both the Senate and the House of Representatives to institutionalize the proposed virology research.

Bong Go reiterates appeal for more modular hospitals and ICU beds to treat severe COVID-19 patients

Senator and Chair of the Senate Committee on Health Christopher “Bong” Go reiterated his appeal to concerned agencies to fast track the expansion and construction of additional modular hospitals equipped with COVID-19 isolation facilities and intensive care unit beds in order to address the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the country, especially in Metro Manila and neighboring provinces.

“Huwag nating hintayin na nag-aagaw buhay na sa labas ng mga ospital ang ating mga kababayang may sakit. Gawin natin ang lahat ng ating makakaya para sagipin at gamutin sila,” began Go.

“I laud the continuing efforts of the government to provide more isolation facilities for people with mild and moderate COVID-19 cases; however, the need for more facilities that can handle severe and critical conditions must also be considered,” he stressed.

During President Rodrigo Duterte’s ‘Talk to the People’ public address on Monday, April 12, National Task Force Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, Jr. disclosed that the country is in need of 2,000 additional ICU beds to respond to the outbreak. Metro Manila hospitals altogether have 1,395 ICU beds at present.

To meet the demand, the government initiated several expansion projects with the aim of generating an additional 1,045 ICU beds for critical cases and 1,178 beds for moderate and severe cases. The projects include:

– 110 additional beds in Quezon Institute (moderate and severe);

– 960 beds from the National Center for Mental Health (moderate);

– 300 beds from the Manila Times College in Subic (mild and asymptomatic);

– 166 additional beds in New Clark City, Tarlac (mild and asymptomatic);

– 200 beds in Eva Macapagal Terminal in Manila (mild and asymptomatic);

– 100 beds in Orion, Bataan Port Terminal (mild and symptomatic);

– 280 hotel beds from Oplan Kalinga for the Philippine General Hospital, East Avenue Medical Center, National Kidney and Transplant Institute, and Lung Center of the Philippines;

– 20 dialysis beds in National Kidney and Transplant Institute; and

– 88 beds in the modular hospital at LCP.

To further boost the healthcare system’s capacity, Senator Go urged the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation to expedite its payments and settle its obligations to hospitals to ensure the unhampered provision of medical services. Both private and public hospitals in the NCR Plus area have committed to use the funds to purchase more new ICU beds.

“Ito pong pagdagdag ng mga ICU beds ng mga private hospitals and the LGU hospitals ay puwede naman po nilang gamitin ‘yong reimbursements from PhilHealth kaya malaki pong tulong ang … naging desisyon na magbayad kaagad ang PhilHealth, initially 60 percent ng kanilang outstanding claims starting March 2020 to April 2021,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said during the President’s address.