Press Release
February 4, 2019

Senate approves bill seeking to amend law on reporting of communicable diseases

The Senate today approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to amend a 90-year old law on reporting of communicable diseases.

Senator Victor Joseph Ejercito, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography and sponsor of Senate Bill No. 2186, said the measure seeks to update and strengthen Republic Act 3573, which requires all individuals and health facilities to report notifiable diseases to national and local health authorities.

SBN 2186 is a consolidation of Senate Bill Nos. 1647 and 1864, taking into consideration House Bill No. 7134. It was authored by Senators Ejercito, Joel Villanueva, Nancy Binay and Risa Hontiveros. "Numerous scientific and medical breakthroughs have happened since the enactment of Act No. 3573. New diseases and epidemics had been discovered. However, the law has remained untouched. The list of reportable or communicable diseases under the law has not been updated for nine decades," Ejercito said.

He said the proposed legislation is aimed to protect the people from public health threats through the efficient and effective disease surveillance of notifiable diseases, including emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, diseases for elimination and eradication, epidemics, and health events including chemical, radio-nuclear and environmental agents of public health concern and an effective response system in compliance with the 2005 International Health Regulations of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Under the bill, the epidemiology bureau under the Department of Health (DOH) shall regularly update and issue a list of nationally notifiable diseases and health events of public health concern. The selection and deletion of diseases and health events of public health concern shall be based on the criteria established by the DOH.

The DOH and its local counterparts shall implement the mandatory reporting of notifiable diseases and health events of public health concern.

They shall also establish and maintain functional disease surveillance and response systems, which include coordination mechanisms, implementation protocols for reporting and response, measures for data security and confidentiality and procedures and provision to ensure safety of personnel conducting disease surveillance and response activities.

Under the proposed legislation, the health secretary has the authority to declare epidemics of national and/or international concerns except when the same threatens national security, in which case the President shall declare a state of public health emergency and mobilize governmental and non-governmental agencies to respond to the threat.

Provincial, city or municipal health offices may only declare a disease outbreak within their respective localities provided that the declaration is supported by sufficient scientific evidence based on disease surveillance date, epidemiologic investigation, environmental investigation and laboratory investigation.

Violators of the act shall be penalized with a fine of not less than P20,000 but not more than P50,000 or imprisonment of not less than one month but not more than six months or both fine and imprisonment, at the discretion of the court.

Likewise, the Professional Regulatory Commission (PRC) shall have the authority to suspend or revoke the license to practice of any medical profession for any violation of the act while the Civil Service Commission (CSC) shall have the authority to suspend or revoke the civil service eligibility to practice of any medical professional for any violation of the act.

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