BY CARLA P. GOMEZ
Rep. Jose Francisco “Kiko” Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3rd District) led the filing of a resolution urging the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Universal Health Care (UHC) to immediately review the “restrictive” provisions of the UHC Law that limits the country’s access to breakthrough medicines and drugs in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The UHC law ensures that every Filipino, including overseas Filipino workers, are eligible for preventive, promotive, curative, rehabilative and palliative care upon automatic enrollment in the government’s health insurance program.
Benitez, along with 10 other lawmakers, in Resolution Bill No. 1031, said they are seeking the review of the UHC Law, particularly Section 34, as it contradicts the very spirit of the law on health care accessibility.
It connotes that Filipinos will have no recourse but to travel to other countries to have access to any breakthrough in medicines and drugs, the resolution said.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is the defining global health crisis of our time and the greater challenge our country has faced since the World War II, and as COVID-19 cases continue to increase in an international scale, it is imperative for Congress to review the UHC Law, rectify this landmark legislation, and make the availability of medicines for Filipinos grounded on sound and rational legislation,” the resolution said.
The resolution said the review is necessary “so as not to cripple our public health systems especially now that we are not exempted from the unimaginable risk that COVID-19 poses.”
The resolution cited the post-marketing surveillance requirement of the law (Phase IV) or the practice of monitoring the safety of a pharmaceutical drug or medical device after it has been released in the market.
Phase IV clinical trials for drug development would mean that the whole world have to use the drug first, and carefully observe and analyze its effects over a period of several years, before it can be used in the Philippines, the resolution said.
With the UHC law Phase IV requirement, “the whole world already has access to a certain drug or vaccine and is using it, while the Philippines is watching and every time a product changes to respond to scientific data, our country will go back to zero,” the resolution added.
The 10 others legislators who joined Benitez in filing the resolution are representatives Greg Gasataya (Bacolod), Leo Rafael Cueva (Neg. Occ., 2nd District), Ma. Lourdes Arroyo (Neg. Occ., 5th District), Manuel Sagarbarria (Neg. Or., 2nd District), Joseph Stephen Paduano (Abang Lingkod partylist), Janette Loreto-Garin (Iloilo, 1st District), Raul Del Mar (Cebu City, 1st District), Paul Daza (Northern Samar), Peter John Calderon (Cebu, 7th District), and Janice Salimbangon (Cebu, 4th District).*