President Benigno S. Aquino III has underscored the importance of global cooperation to prevent the spread of deadly diseases, such as the Ebola virus and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV).
In his speech during the opening of the 65th Session of the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Committee for the Western Pacific in Pasay City on Monday (Oct. 13), President Aquino said stopping the spread of these contagious diseases is a “paramount concern” of the administration, considering the significant number of Filipinos working abroad.
“Outbreaks of illnesses and diseases like the MERS-Coronavirus and Ebola are among the greatest challenges the world faces today,” he said before hundreds of international health officials at the Philippine International Convention Center.
“For the Philippines, specifically, the fact that we have ten million of our countrymen living and working abroad, makes these kinds of outbreaks a paramount concern,” he added.
The President shared how the government, through the Department of Health (DOH), managed to prevent the spread of MERS-Coronavirus in the Philippines despite the more than one million Filipinos living and working in the Middle East.
He said the DOH has been tasked to continue to educate the public about the deadly diseases without causing fear and panic, and to come up with an efficient and safe way to monitor the exposure of the people to such diseases.
He assured that the government will continue to exert effort to keep all Filipinos safe and healthy amid the global threat of pandemics.
The President also gave a rundown of the government’s achievements in the health sector, including the expansion of PhilHealth coverage and the passage of the sin tax and reproductive health bills.
“Back then, it was my mother, President Corazon Aquino, who welcomed your predecessors to our country, where they would discuss, among others, infant and child nutrition, the WHO’s expanded immunization program, and financial policies and strategies in public health,” he said.
Meanwhile, in his opening remarks, WHO Executive Director Ian Smith thanked the Philippine government for hosting this year's meeting of the regional committee.
Characterizing the Filipinos as “well-known survivors”, Smith expressed optimism that the Philippines could prevent the importation of Ebola virus as the country has survived various disasters in recent years.
About 250 representatives of member countries and partners are attending the meeting, which will tackle important health issues, among them emergencies and disasters, universal coverage, antimicrobial resistance, tobacco, and mental health. (PCOO News Release)