by NILLICENT BAUTISTA
THE GOVERNMENT should strengthen international health cooperation and diplomacy to help the country survive unprecedented health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, a medical expert said.
Agencies must draw on the existing international cooperation and policies as these have helped the country survive the multisectoral adversities brought by the pandemic, Department of Health’s (DOH) international and diplomacy division chief Joel Buenaventura said.
“In a post-COVID world, I would say that we really have to strengthen our ties, especially of our neighbors, because they are really the ones who will be there, would be the ones closest to you,” Buenaventura said during the virtual UST Model United Nations (MUN) conference held this month.
Global health governance mechanisms must be improved to ensure a faster and more coordinated response in future public health crises, he said.
“We have to strengthen our ASEAN ties, our regional mechanisms, our mechanism via the western pacific regional office, and really leverage the comparative advantages of every country,” Buenaventura added.
He cited the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access, a worldwide initiative for fair access of vaccines, especially to low-income countries, as an area of health cooperation that helped the Philippines acquire COVID-19 vaccines through donations.
Buenaventura, who also served as the previous chief health program officer of the migrant health unit of DOH, noted the pandemic had presented the opportunity to reevaluate the role of the global health governance institutions such as the World Health Organization (WHO).
In April 2021, WHO admitted that the coronavirus was airborne over a year since the pandemic began. Criticisms fell on the health organization due to their late admission of the worsening COVID-19 situation.
‘Health is political’
Registered pharmacist and former UST Central Student Council president Robert Dominic Gonzales urged the student leaders to be “politically involved,” especially during the pandemic, as health is political.
Gonzales, a post-graduate intern, stressed that being politically aware is the right and responsibility of Filipinos to be informed of the events in their community and the factors affecting these.
“Putting a focus on health right now, we have seen various discrepancies, the irregularities when it comes to the government’s response to the pandemic,” he said.
“Health is political. We need to tackle it on that aspect that it is political because the people in positions of power, they are the ones dictating, they have the power to dictate what will be our response in these types of health crisis,” he added.
The UST MUN 2021 is a three-day conference organized by the Asian Studies Society, which aims to prepare young Filipino students about diplomacy through simulations of the United Nations assemblies.
The virtual conference is the eighth installation of UST MUN which was first held in 2013. F