THE House Committee on Ways and Means approved on Monday a bill calling for the establishment of a bureau and special fund focused on procuring medical supplies.

In a hearing Monday, the committee approved House Bill 6995 or the proposed Health Procurement and Stockpiling Act subject to amendments. If passed, the measure will create a Health and Procurement and Stockpiling Bureau (HPSB), to be managed by the Department of Health (DoH). The HPSB will absorb the DoH’s Procurement Service. 

Quezon Rep. Angelina D.L. Tan, the bill’s principal author, said at the hearing that the bureau is necessary in times of public health crises. It will be tasked with identifying critical medicines and supplies that need to be stockpiled. 

“It shall serve as the principal agency mandated to undertake a transparent, fair, proactive, and innovative procurement service of the DoH and stockpile, conserve and facilitate the release of adequate amounts of potentially life-saving pharmaceuticals, vaccines, devices, and materials during public health emergencies,” she said at the hearing.

Ms. Tan said the bill also aims to address issues that hinder access to critical drugs and other medical equipment during crises. 

The bill also calls for the creation of the Medical Stockpiling Fund which will “support the national drug and device security program.” The fund will be handled by the DoH. The DoH may solicit and receive donations in cash or in kind, subject to exemption from donor’s tax and other charges. 

However, the Department of Finance said during the hearing that it proposed that the Bureau of the Treasury should manage the fund.  

“This is consistent with the existing policy and treatment of grants and donations of a special account in the general fund,” Finance Director Valery Joy A. Brion said at the hearing. — Gillian M. Cortez