The Department of Natural Resources (DENR) Acting Secretary Jim O. Sampulna and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) Director Celia C. Carlos signed the Deed of Conveyance transferring the 9,077 square meter lot space within the Alabang Stock Farm property in Muntinlupa to RITM last April 8, 2022, at the DENR Office of the Secretary in Diliman, Quezon City.
The signing ceremony is pursuant to Proclamation No. 1276 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte last January 6, 2022, in which ownership of a parcel of land within the Alabang Stock Farm property is transferred to RITM. The presidential proclamation, therefore, grants the DENR Secretary the authority to enforce a Deed of Conveyance in favor of RITM. With this, it is hereby made official that the lot space located adjacent to RITM can now be used for the expansion of the Institute.
“This Deed of Conveyance is DENR’s simple gift and contribution to RITM in order for this important institution to further advance their research work, and prepare the health sector in addressing the current pandemic, as well as (other) health concerns that may arise in the future,” said Acting DENR Secretary Sampulna.
The lack of space in RITM has been a long-standing dilemma for the Institute as it continues to hamper its delivery of services, especially in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. The expansion of RITM has been aimed by its leaders for the longest time now in view of its proposed augmentation of the Institute’s Preparedness Plan for future infectious disease outbreaks. The move to augment the Plan entails additional facilities, manpower, equipment, and funding. But this plan did not materialize earlier due to the lack of space.
“RITM’s own Institute Preparedness Plan had allowed the country to tide over the many infectious disease outbreaks it faced in the last 20 years. As early as eight years ago, RITM had realized that its preparedness plan for infectious diseases should be expanded to be prepared for a possible outbreak of a bigger magnitude and scope,” said RITM Director Carlos.
As the research arm of the Department of Health (DOH), RITM’s existing 3-hectare land houses 18 national reference laboratories (NRLs) in infectious diseases which primarily perform confirmatory testing and evaluation of test kits. The NRLs employ quality assurance programs that ensure the accuracy of test results released by medical laboratories nationwide.
Moreover, RITM has been at the forefront of battling several outbreaks for more than two decades now. It has helped the country survive SARS-CoV in 2003; AH1N1 in 2009; measles in 2013; MERS-CoV in 2014 and 2015; and polio in 2018. In recent years, the role of RITM in the prevention and control of infectious and tropical diseases has been further emphasized due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Based on RITM’s experiences in its fight against infectious disease outbreaks, it was quite clear that any pandemic preparedness plan should have corresponding additional resources. Therefore, any additional resources which can be given to RITM will be a big help towards the country’s preparedness for the current and next pandemics,” added Dr. Carlos.
The Land Management Bureau (LMB) of the DENR spearheaded the facilitation of the transfer of ownership of land to RITM. As per LMB Director Atty. Emelyne V. Talabis, the lot conveyed to RITM has been a part of the joint venture agreement between the Republic of the Philippines and Filinvest Alabang Incorporated.
“DOH-RITM plays a very big role in the curtailment of the pandemic and nararapat lang na ibigay natin ‘yung improvement ng kanilang serbisyo sa pamamagitan ng lupa na pagtatayuan nila ng expansion area nila,” said Atty. Talabis.
(DOH-RITM plays a very big role in the curtailment of the pandemic and it is just right that we help them improve their services by giving them the land that they will use as their expansion area.)
Aside from Atty. Talabis, the ceremonial signing event was also graced by LMB Assistant Director Engr. Romeo P. Verzosa who pledged DENR’s continued support to RITM in the process of the land ownership.
“Now that it is official, we hope that by having this additional lot area for your office buildings will help you to fulfill more of your mandate in serving our Filipino people in our fight against COVID-19,” said Engr. Verzosa.
Acting DENR Secretary Sampulna promised RITM that the land ownership process will be prioritized. DENR National Capital Region (DENR NCR) Regional Executive Director Jacqueline A. Caancan was mandated to fast-track the titling of the area.
by Anel Dimaano, Communication and Engagement Office