In the light of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak increasing in numbers throughout the country, Senator Panfilo M. Lacson called out to the national government to invest more on research and development (R&D) after President Duterte has offered PHP10 million to whoever can develop a vaccine for the virus.

“How about investing more on R&D than a token annual average share of 0.4 percent from the GAA (General Appropriations Act or national budget)?,’” he tipped. “We only need to look at how much the most prosperous countries spend on R&D to see why we are among the laggards.”

“Now more than ever, the Duterte administration should impose systematic medical solutions and put in funding for research and development programs now rather than promising a grant to scientists and researchers after discovering a vaccine to COVID-19,” he added.

Assistant Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Representative France Castro had also made the same appeal, adding that Filipino scientists need more support from the national government.

The Department of Health’s Epidemiology and Surveillance Program’s budget was cut from PHP262,997,000 in 2019 to PHP115,501,000 under the 2020 budget.

“This administration’s budget prioritization has left our health and research and development programs with annual budget cuts allowing our public health facilities to have limited capacities to stop the further spread of a virus such as COVID-19,” she said.

Malacañang announced on Tuesday the reward money for the vaccine production, as Philippines saw continued escalation number of COVID-19 cases. A sure cure for the coronavirus is yet to be developed, but there are drugs undergoing testing worldwide as possible treatment for the virus.

China, where the coronavirus outbreak had originated, had begun its clinical trial on a third potential coronavirus vaccine, as per South China Morning Post reported few days ago. A vaccine is already on the works, with its latest trial amounting to “tens of volunteers” as vaccine candidates showing positive results, according to the researching team led by Qin Chuan at the National Institutes for Food and Drug Control in Beijing. The vaccine targets the initial strain of the virus and other mutations that have appeared as it has spread around the world.

As of this writing, 722 have recovered with a significant gap of 462 fatalities in the Philippines and a number of 6,981 cases have been confirmed with the virus, nearing 7,000.

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