House committee approves bill putting herbal processing plants under DOH

THE House Committee on Health, chaired by Rep. Alfredo D. Marañon (2nd District, Negros Occidental), has approved in principle a bill that seeks to save the country’s four herbal processing plants (HPPs) from closure and privatization.

House Bill 5178 amends Section 17 Article V of Republic Act 8423, which will cause the transfer of the four HPPs from Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care (PITAHC) to the Department of Health (DoH).

Rep. Randolph S. Ting (3rd District, Cagayan), author of the bill, said the four HPPs are facing a new threat of closure and privatization through legislative fiat.

“Rep. Rufus Rodriguez sponsored HB 2867 which seeks to close 36 government-owned and-controlled corporations (GOCCs) including PITAHC and Sen. Franklin Drilon sponsored RA 10149 which seeks to create a committee to evaluate all losing GOCCs for recommendation to the President for possible closure and privatization,” Ting said.

The Cagayan solon explained it was the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) that established the first HPP, the Davao Herbal Processing Plant to formulate raw materials into finished products.

“DOST established an HPP to solve the problems of high prices of synthetic drugs made by multinational companies (MNC) and maldistribution of drug consumption in the country,” he said.

Ting further said that when the DoH, under the then Secretary of Health Sec. Jesus Azurin realized the impact of the DoH in putting up its own herbal processing plant, it decided to establish three HPPs in the country.

“The HPPs will be a way to lower the DoH budget since it will no longer buy the exorbitantly priced synthetic drugs that will be given free to indigent patients,” Ting explained.

Ting said the DOST transferred the control and management of the Davao Herbal Processing Plant to the DoH. Later on, however, with the passage of RA 8423, the control and management of the four HPPs were transferred from DoH to PITACH, an RA 8423-created institute.

According to Ting, barely two years from the transfer of the HPPs from DoH to PITAHC, the Board of Trustees of PITAHC already attempted to close and privatize the four HPPs but this move was effectively blocked at the House of Representatives.

The proposed amendment of Sec. 17 Article V of RA 8423 provides that the functions, personnel and assets of all the pharmaceutical and herbal processing plants of the Department of Health Regional Offices being coordinated by the Traditional Medicine Unit previously transferred to the Institute, shall be reverted back to the Department of Health under the administrative supervision of the Department of Health Centers for health Development.

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