Thu, 23 Mar 2023

MANILA - The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has earmarked around PHP419.3 million for virology-related projects.

In a press statement issued Thursday, the DBM said the funding plan for the research and development projects of the proposed Virology and Vaccine Institute of the Philippines (VIP) has been included in the proposed 2023 National Expenditure Program (NEP) submitted to Congress.

Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman said the fund allocation demonstrates the Marcos administration's resolve to promote public health and safety.

"We need to be pro-active and fund for a Virology Institute composed of highly-trained experts who would conduct studies on emerging virus strains as quickly as possible and prepare us in case of health emergencies," Pangandaman said.

Under the 2023 NEP drafted by the DBM, the PHP419.3 million will be used for the ongoing virology-related activities of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST)'s Industrial Technology Development Institute (ITDI) and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).

The ITDI and RITM's current undertakings include isolation and purification of Philippine common viruses with medical importance and pandemic potential for antigen-antibody studies that would focus on isolating pure cultures of coronaviruses and avian viruses, from civet cats, and chickens.

The proposed budget would also be allotted for the "Combination Therapy: Lytic Bacteriophages and Plant Extracts against Multidrug-resistant Bacteria" project, which aims to isolate and characterize bacteriophages from the environment and screen them for their bactericidal and antibiofilm activities against multidrug-resistant bacteria.

Other projects that will receive funding in 2023 include detection of food and water-borne bacterial pathogens using phage-based diagnostics and the De Novo Synthesis of non-infective Zika Pseudovirus as reference for diagnostics and vaccines development.

The funds will also be used for the development of a real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for point of need detection of African Swine Fever virus; PCR-based Detection Kit for Tomato Yellow Leaf Curl Virus (TYLCV) - Philippine Strains; and Antigenic Peptide virus-like particples as potential candidates for Covid-19 vaccine development.

The DBM noted that around PHP250 million will be given to the Department of Public Works and Highways in 2023 for the planned construction of the VIP facility in Capas, Tarlac.

"President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. earlier recognized the crucial role of the VIP in the society. In his budgetary message on the 2023 NEP, the Chief Executive expressed that the P419.3 million allocation for the VIP mirrored the country's need for faster identification of, and response to, outbreaks," the DBM said.

In August, Marcos backed the immediate passage of a measure creating the VIP, stressing that it would help "consolidate in a better way all of the disparate research, all the different sources of knowledge, [and] all the different sources of research and new data."

The proposed VIP will serve as the premier research and development institute in the field of virology, encompassing all areas in viruses and viral diseases in humans, plants, and animals. (PNA)

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