House OKs Duterte priority bill creating medical reserve corps

House OKs Duterte priority bill creating medical reserve corps

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives approved Thursday a bill that seeks to establish a medical reserve corps, which President Rodrigo Duterte identified as one of his priority measures.

The reserve corps — which will be composed of doctors, students, nurses and licensed allied health professionals — is envisioned to support the country’s health system in times of public health emergencies or health threats.

“If the pandemic is going to persist further as it already did, then we need urgent reinforcement, which is what this bill is all about,” House health committee chair Rep. Angelina Tan (Quezon) said in a statement.

The bill provides that the reserve corps will be trained to respond to various health emergencies and will serve under the Health Emergency Management Bureau of the Department of Health.

The measure also states that members of the reserve corps will be protected by existing labor laws and will receive pay, allowances, medical care, hospitalization and other privileges and benefits during their mobilization.

The proposal also wants to give the health secretary the option to enlist the help of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to provide expertise on the organization and structure of the reserve corps.

It also allows the health secretary to recommend to the president the enlistment of the AFP to supplement the reserve corps for logistics and manpower, contact tracing and monitoring of suspected cases, enforcing quarantine measures or for transporting patients with emerging infectious diseases.

Nine lawmakers voted against the bill, including Deputy Minority Leader Carlos Zarate (Bayan Muna party-list), who warned that the measure would herald the militarization of the DOH.

“Health problems would not be solved by creating a new militarized structure inside the DOH,” Zarate said in Filipino.

In the Senate, three similar measures are still pending at the committee level.

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