The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) was recently visited by the European Union (EU) Chemical, Biological, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) Centers of Excellence Regional Secretariat for Southeast Asia (RS-SEA) last March 22, 2023 as part of Project 81 – a Priority Identification Mission (PIM) under its Biosecurity Program, held to identify priorities of its activities in the Philippines in the future.
The EU CBRN RS-SEA visited RITM, particularly the National Tuberculosis Reference Laboratory (NTRL) to observe its biosecurity management operations in detecting human pathogens, especially Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of tuberculosis. Aside from RITM, the EU CBRN RS-SEA also visited the laboratories of the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) for animal pathogens, and the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) for its operations as an academic laboratory.
As the national authority on the chemical weapons and other disarmament issues, the Anti-Terrorism Council Program Management Center (ATC-PMC) presented the CBRN Implementation Plan (ImPlan) in the Philippines during the visit.
With the ImPlan in place, strategic objectives of the National Action Plan (NAP) on CBRN can be achieved to ensure CBRN security and preparedness of the country. The ImPlan shall also foster inter-agency collaboration to determine and gauge outcomes, monitor goals, and address related risks.
The Department of Health (DOH) is primarily concerned to contribute to the attainment of the ImPlan objective of establishing a system of sustainable National CBRN policies, programs, standards, training, and concepts. With this, DOH is assigned as the lead agency to strengthen preparedness for emerging biological threats through the creation of an Awareness and Preparedness Plan.
“RITM is continuously participating in various national CBRN activities and we also send our specialists in biosecurity and biorisk management to trainings abroad. We commit to full and dedicated collaboration and participation in the prevention of any CBRN threats,” said RITM CBRN focal point person and Officer-in-Charge, Director IV Atty. Ana Liza P. Hombrado-Duran, MD.
Project 81 Team Leader and Key Expert 1 John Jones (rightmost) at the National Reference Laboratory Conference Room presenting the objectives of the Project, its background, and the review of the agenda for the survey mission.
Funded by EU and delivered by a a highly technical consortium of CBRN experts on behalf of the EU CBRN Centers of Excellence, Project 81 aims to improve biosecurity in Southeast Asia (SEA) through a multi-sectoral approach. It also aims to provide recommendations to enhance biosecurity management systems in Southeast Asian countries. This is for SEA countries to become capable to primarily address gaps in biosecurity awareness, legislation, and enforcement, and physical and information security framework for facilities. Lastly, Project 81 shall capacitate stakeholders on responding to highly infectious diseases and/or pressing biological phenomena such as a pandemic.
Aside from the Philippines, Project 81 is also implemented in Brunei, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore, and Thailand since 2019.
by Anel Azel Dimaano