“The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) integration will open opportunities and challenges for health research and innovation,” said Mr. Luis Cruz, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Office of ASEAN Affairs Assistant Secretary, during the 33rd anniversary celebration of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) on 17 March 2015 at the Dusit Thani Hotel, Makati City.
In a panel discussion, “Challenges and Opportunities of ASEAN Integration for Health Research and Innovation,” Cruz reiterated the goal of ASEAN integration in promoting active collaboration and providing mutual assistance among member countries. “The future of ASEAN is to bring greater quality of life to people through sustainable growth and development,” he emphasized.
Among the opportunities of the collaboration were trade-in services like Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) on medical transcription, ASEAN-Network for Drugs, Diagnostics, Vaccines and Traditional Medicines Innovation (ASEAN-NDI), research and development (R&D) on communicable and tropical diseases, highly-skilled workers and researchers, information technology, natural resources and biodiversity, and government and private support.
The problems like existence of tropical infectious diseases, political-security conflicts, lack of effective regional cooperation and shortage of R&D investment, on the other hand, can affect the growth of health research and innovation.
To combat the challenges with opportunities, Cruz recommended increasing Philippine competitiveness, developing research skills and infrastructure, increasing investment in R&D, and conducting health research in disaster management and emergency response.
Other health professionals who served as reactors during the discussion also encouraged establishing research centers in the country, uplifting both qualitative and quantitative researches, promoting education and information and addressing knowledge and development gaps.
They also called for people-oriented and people-centered ASEAN which is “a community where the needs of the people come first, where their views are enunciated, where they play a part in policy formulation and implementation, where they participate in nation and community-building, where they as stakeholders are assured that their voices are heard,” as explained by Cruz.
Among the reactors were Dr. Maria Minerva Calimag, Philippine Medical Association (PMA) President, Atty. Nicolas Lutero III, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Philippines Assistant Secretary of Health and Officer-in-Charge, Dr. Francis Domingo, Novartis Healthcare Philippines Chief Scientific Officer, and Dr. Edelina Dela Paz, Health Action Information Network (HAIN) Executive Director. ■