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At the End of the Day


Atty. J. Raoul C. Dizon, The Business Daily dated June 5, 1998 

Ka Val of TUCP recently remarked it does not take an intellectual President to advance the country's progress. Among the things he simply needs to do, he said, is visit UP Los Banos and witness the wonderful R&D that goes on there, and then see that the products developed there by our own people are produced by local producers. One noteworthy project there is that begun by Dr. Luciano Talens, a Filipino balik-scientist. Awarded by government with a contract to develop FMD (foot and Mouth disease) vaccine in 1996, he developed it in record time and now it's ready for testing. The vaccine is more powerful than the imported type. Unlike the latter, it attacks local strains of virus. And livestock farmers can get it cheaper. The imported kind costs P40-50 per dose; and new vaccine costs less than P30.

The development of this vaccine comes at a time when the people have elected Joseph "Erap" Estrada president. Erap, who takes his oath of office later this month, has already made it known that among his priorities is food security and the development of agriculture in the country. In his view, in this still-predominantly agricultural country, food should never be a problem. The development by Dr. Talens of the FMD vaccine, therefore, comes at a very opportune time. It will no doubt boost the capabilities of the country to combat and ultimately eradicate the dreaded foot and mouth disease that is the scourge of livestock around the world. It will be recalled that in 1995, the country suffered an outbreak of FMD. Two billion pesos were lost in June and July of that year alone. With the vaccine, the country will have a readily available defence against any other outbreak of FMD.

But first is to see that the vaccine is successfully tested. Dr. Talens is ready to test it. But he cannot. The Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) at Visayas Avenue, QC, has effectively blocked it. The BAI claims that Dr. Talens' facility, located at UP Los Banos and equipped with mnodern tools by the DOST, is illegal in that it has not complied with legal requirements. It has thrown the book at it, so to speak. The government regulatory agency said Agricultural Department Orders 9 (1982) and 15 (1991), governing the requirements manufacturers of biological products in the country should meet before they operate should first be followed. Dr. Talens could not believe that the lab given him by government violates the law and that BAI has cited him for illegal vaccine production.

A representative from DOST, which is pushing hard for Dr. Talens' project, has told representatives from the BAI that in her opinion the AOs apply only to commercial manufacturers, not to Dr. Talens' vaccine project. Dr. Talens' production is not commercial production, she said, but developmental. She stressed that once the vaccine is ready for commercial exploitation by a local company, then the facilities of that company must comply with the strict requirements of the AOs, because that is really "manufacturing" in the sense that the AOs intended it to mean. But the BAI representatives insisted that the AOs apply to both public and private labs, whether for government R&D or for private commercial manufacture. The insistence of the BAI representatives is funny, because they admit their own production facility of other vaccine products located at the BAI compound does not comply with the AOs either!.

"Better close down that production facility of yours, so that it does not pose moral problem to your authority to enforce the rules, " the DOST representatives told the BAI representatives. I know the substance of these exchanges took place, because I was present in their meeting---as legal counsel for Dr. Talens. That Dr. Talens, who forsook a high-paying job in the US to help the country industrialize had to hire counsel to help him with this impasses with the BAI speaks of the reasons why progress is so hard to attain here. The exercise of authority by some of our bureaucrats sometimes has no direction. It is not informed by the proper public values. It does ask the question, "what is this power for?" To think that this project is so important to our agriculture life. And to think that the successful development of the vaccine by Dr. Luciano Talens will provide the dictum The Filipino Can! What's at the bottom of this?

The FMD market was estimated at P200 million in 1997. Cynics will not doubt think the multinationals, to protect their market, are now quietly but surely working through the regulators, the BAI. While the temptation to believe these cynics is great, especially when you see no good reason why the BAI has taken a hard line with regard the vaccine, it should be resisted. We must assume the BAI is only doing its job. But if true, all those who willingly lent their position in the service of foreigners to the prejudice of national intereest deserve nothing less than jail. Happily the BAI have consented to end a checklist of the legal requirements and to point out which among the requirements have not yet been met by Dr. Talens' lab, so that remedial steps could be taken ASAP. But the project has already been too much delayed. it would have been a Centennial Project.

I believe Secretry Padolina when he said on TV last Tuesday night that during the term of the new president, he would continue pushing the cause of science and technology in this country. One way to insure success is for Congress to invest in the DOST, to be more forward-looking compared to the Cureau of Animal Industry, with the final say as to all things necessary to fund and register R&D projects in S&T in this country. Expanded powers for the DOST should be a main ingredient of the new instrial policy which President Estrada should strive to have. The grant of power is called for because the BAI seems to forget that government is like an engine: to move the vehicle or country forward, all its parts must play in synch. I heard Dr. Talens utter something which broke my hear: "How can one government project be doomed to failutre by another government agency" Is this how we plan to be world competitive?

Atty J. Raoul C. Dizon

Addenda:

Dr. Talens submitted a position paper entitled "Development and local commercial production of inactivated foot and mouth disease vaccine for the immunoprophylactic control and possibility of eventual eradication of foot and mouth disease under Philippine conditions" to the Honorable Congressman and former Department of Agriculture Secretary Leonardo Q. Montemayor, which led to the introduction of House Bill 6427, "An Act Providing for the Establishment of the Center for Animal Vaccine and Disease Diagnostic Research and Development and Appropriating Funds Therefor" based on his letter dated January 29, 1999.

Recognizing the need to obtain support from key Senators Biazon, Magsaysay, Roco, and Osmena, Dr. Talens lobbied in the Senate and was later advised by Attorney Percival O. Flores, Chief of Staff, on August 5, 1999, that Senator Raul S. Roco had filed Senate Bill1656 upon my request .

Before Dr. Talens return-trip to the United States, Vice President and former TV Anchorman Noli de Castro highlighted the DOST FMD Vaccine Development Project in his ABS CBN Magandang Gabi Bayan telecast on November 6, 1999. 

In 2004, Senate Bill 244, which seeks for the establishment of the Center, was introduced by Senator Sergio Osmena III. In 2007, Senate Bill 797, which seeks for the establishment of the Center, was introduced by Senator Ramon Bong Revilla, Jr.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  



posted in News on April 21, 2010 with 2190 views


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