Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Labor office favors 'holiday economics'

THE Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) Tuesday welcomed the proposal of Senator Manuel Roxas II to permanently adopt the holiday economics introduced by the Arroyo administration.
Read Sun.Star for the full story.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Senator Roxas files Holiday Act of 2005

SEN. Mar Roxas has introduced a bill that will set a standard schedule for observing nonworking holidays to address businessmen’s concern over the unpredictability of holiday observances in the country. “While the intent of holiday economics has yielded positive results, the business sector has expressed concern on the unpredictability of the dates set for the actual observance of legal holidays,” Roxas noted.

Read The Manila Times and Manila Standard Today for the full story.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Some pointers for Manila panel at WTO trade gab

The Philippine government should assert in the forthcoming World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong next week the reclassification of rice as a “special product” to protect the interest of some 3.2 million Filipino rice farmers, Senator Mar Roxas said yesterday.

Roxas, chairman of the committee on trade and commerce, said the Philippine delegation should resolutely negotiate for export subsidies and agricultural price support that would be good for the country.

Read the Manila Standard Today for the full story.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

$2.5-M HP center seen to boost RP outsourcing bid

WITH the investment of Hewlett-Packard of 2.5 million US dollars in a new facility for its business process and application outsourcing arm in the Philippines, the country is expected to gain the expertise needed to tackle higher value-added offshore projects. "Definitely, it moves us higher up in the outsourcing food chain," Senator Manuel A. Roxas II said in response to a question from INQ7.net.

Read Inq7.net and Computerworld for the full story. Visit xieurx blog for a photo shot too.

Tax incentives for alternative fuel users sought

WITH a pending world oil crisis and the continued damage brought by fossil fuels to the environment, the Philippine government must grant tax incentives to those who will use alternative fuels, Senator Manuel Roxas II said Saturday. Citing the oil crisis forecast by the Asian Development Bank, the senator said oil production is expected to rise to 90 dollars per barrel next year. He noted that the Philippines depends on oil as the primary fuel source for transportation, importing at least 126 million barrels of crude oil and petroleum products worth five billion dollars in 2004.
For the full story, read Inq7.net.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Fertilizer fund audit sought

Senator Mar Roxas II is asking for a special audit of the Department of Agriculture’s P728 million fertilizer project to detemine who are liable for the alleged misuse of funds. Roxas stressed the need to ensure that the intended recipients benefited from the funds and the officials involved are held accountable for any misuse.

Read the Manila Standard and the Philippine Star for the full story.

Mar wants probe on brain drain of health professionals

Sen. Mar Roxas has called for a Senate inquiry into the decline in the quality of healthcare service due to the continuing migration of Filipino health professionals to rich countries.

Roxas, chairman of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs, voiced concern over the damaging effects of the exodus of Filipino nurses and doctors on the country’s healthcare system.

“The government cannot afford to play deaf and blind to the problem of migrating health professionals. It must find ways to encourage Filipino doctors and nurses to remain in the country by giving skills training and work incentives,” he said.

Read the Philippine Information Agency for the full story.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Lack of business opportunities limits potential for OFWs' dollars

Roxas said, even the improvement in the stock market would not trickle down to the poor, neither would the dollars from foreign portfolio investments plough into the real economy, "except if a few stock brokers buy a home. But that's about it."

The senator explained that given the absence of a strong regulatory regime that would guarantee the continuing viability of such investment ventures, OFWs would simply keep their funds in the bank, while rich Filipinos would invest theirs abroad, instead of engaging in a profitable business in the country
Read Balita.ph for the full story.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Roche okays local Tamiflu production

THE Philippines is free to produce a generic version of Tamiflu, a known antibird flu drug, at its discretion and without paying compensation to Swiss-based Roche pharmaceuticals. In a Nov. 23 letter to Senator Mar Roxas, Roche Philippines general manager Warwick Bedwell said that Tamiflu, otherwise known as “oseltamivir,” is not patent-protected in the Philippines, “therefore, voluntary or compulsory licensing cannot be pursued where no patent protection exists.”

Read the Manila Standard Today for the full story.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

OFWs to benefit from VoIP

Iloilo City (23 November) -- The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration 6 (OWWA) expects that communication between Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and their families will become frequent and easier with the use of VoIP or Voice over Internet Protocol which is being pushed by Senator Mar Roxas.

Visit the PIA site for the full story.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Do we have a future in offshoring?

Here's an interesting column piece from Boo Chanco.

When Sen. Mar Roxas was still DTI Secretary, I asked him what he was doing to prepare us to meet the challenges of globalization. Why wasn’t he, I asked him, choosing the industries where we have competitive advantage and give them full support to be world class players. He told me he didn’t want to "play God" in the sense of deciding which industries lived and which ones died. He said he wanted the market to determine that.

Read the Philippine Star for the full story.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Roxas urges revision of telecom statutes

Senator Mar Roxas, co-chairman of the Senate oversight committee on e-commerce, on Monday underscored the need to amend provisions of the country's telecom laws, stressing that these may have become obsolete because of the changing business models, consumer demands and technological innovations. "Using VoIP lowers communication cost. It enables our OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) to communicate with their loved ones as often as they want," Roxas said, adding that exporters may transact business at lower costs, making them more competitive.

Read ABS-CBN News and Inq7 for the full story.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

DoH asks for antibird flu fund

Senator Mar Roxas called for a Senate inquiry into the financial condition of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. after its officials admitted that it needs P150 billion in trust funds to settle the claims and availments of its members. Roxas said while the financial records of PhilHealth appeared to be “looking good,” these do not reflect the agency’s capability to fully pay all the claims and availments of the members.

Read The Manila Standard Today for the full story.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Philippines To Soon Lead In Global BPO Industry: Solon

The Philippines ranks third in the world's top 14 destinations for BPO, behind India and Canada in the recent 2005 Mapping Offshore Markets Update conducted by neoIT. "Despite the problems the country is facing, this is an indication that nothing is impossible to the Filipino if he will only put his mind into it. With stronger English proficiency and professional experience in the field of BPO and IT, I am confident the country will take the top post sooner than expected. Well done!" Roxas said.

Visit Yahoo! Australia for the full story and some insights from the Project Management Digest.

Senators propose to transfer P16-B pork to DepEd

Sen. Mar Roxas yesterday criticized the Department of Education’s (DepEd) 2006 budget proposal for "lack of focus," saying the department ought to present education programs that will directly benefit Filipino students. During Senate deliberations on the DepEd budget, Roxas instructed DepEd officer-in-charge, Undersecretary Fe Hidalgo to focus on certain aspects of education with direct benefits to the country’s educational system.
Read the Manila Bulletin for the full story.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The 2006 Budget (statement as of Nov. 14)

Today we begin deliberations on the national budget, a tremendous responsibility for any given year. But this year, in these straitened circumstances, it is even more imperative for us to ensure that we craft a responsive and responsible budget document that will meet real needs.

When we passed the EVAT law, we made it clear that we were doing so for extraordinary reasons—to stave off a crippling shortfall in the resources we need for proper governance and development.

Now that the EVAT is in effect, we should remember what we passed it for, and make sure that its fruits are spent on equally extraordinary priorities.

Our people will be paying government an additional of about P80 billion in VAT for 2006. They want value for money for their sacrifice. Kailangan sulit ang paggastos nito. The best thing we can do to justify that burden is to prove that every extra peso we earn will be an extra peso spent on their most urgent needs.

Our people will have every right to ask: where is our money going? Who will stand to benefit from the government’s largest expenditures? At the end of another year, what can we claim to have achieved with a trillion pesos?

Will we see any appreciable impact in the areas that matter most to us—our children’s education, our food, our housing—or will this budget be frittered away on business as usual, on a little bit here and there, on political payback and on onerous contracts? Maybe, maybe not; I am saying that we should do everything to make sure that it will not.

I will work to pass a budget that will focus on and address real priorities. I expect the EVAT to be complemented by continuing efforts to improve collection efficiency, to ease the burden of the ordinary taxpayer.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Palace has spent P27B of FM loot

MALACA√ĎANG has spent P27 billion of the P35-billion ($718 million) Swiss deposits of the late President Ferdinand Marcos recovered by the government, Budget Secretary Romulo Neri admitted Monday to the Senate committee of the whole. Sen. Mar Roxas asked the DBM to give a detailed report on how the government spent the P27 billion.

Read The Manila Times for the full story.

P175B lost yearly to technical smuggling

SEN. Mar Roxas reiterated his appeal to the government to address the problem of smuggling, saying it would save the country a lot of revenues. “If you add up and collect all the government revenues lost to smuggling, there is no need to impose new taxes to fund the budget,” Roxas said.

Read the full story at Manila Times and The Daily Tribune.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Firm offers cable TV connection via power lines

Earlier, Roxas was worried that because the technology proposed would use the same facilities used by Capelco in delivering electricity, all their officials must exercise greater diligence in evaluating the said business opportunity and always weigh benefits relative to the stability of its primary function, which is to provide electricity at affordable prices to all Capicenos. "There is a need to slowly evaluate this contract because any mistake will ultimately be shouldered by the consumers of Capelco," Roxas said.

Read Sun.Star Iloilo for the full story.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Palace will let 6 US marines leave RP

Sen. Mar Roxas said that from his readings of the VFA debates in the Senate, the government could choose to keep custody of US Marines suspected of committing crimes during military exercises in the Philippines.

Read ABS-CBN Interactive and Inq7 for the full story.

Finance chief says govt open to deferral of VAT rate hike

In a separate briefing, Sen. Mar Roxas told reporters that the expanded VAT should be implemented in its entirety, while a legislated wage hike should be dropped in favor of the existing system of regional wage setting.
Read the Manila Times for the full story.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Senator Roxas urges taxis to use LPG instead of gas

Senator Mar Roxas, chair of the Committee on Trade and Commerce, said that operators of public utility vehicles (PUV) should consider using alternative gas like LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas) instead of the usual diesel and gasoline to save on operation expenses and help bring down the cost of transportation in the country.

“PUV operators and commuters will stand to benefit should alternative gas be used instead of the expensive diesel and gasoline,” Roxas explained. “We should learn from the experience of Japan where 90% of its taxis run on LPG which is less expensive and environment-friendly.”
Other countries like United Kingdom where the number of LPG-fuelled cars is expected to rise to nearly 100,000 by 2006, a four-fold leap from present figures are also contemplating on alternative gas as a means to address the rising cost of crude oil in the world market. In Metro Manila , around 200 taxis have already been converted to LPG.

“Countries all over the globe have been using LPG as transport fuel for the past decade,” Roxas disclosed. “Some major car manufacturers have introduced car models than run on autogas. Some major gasoline companies also introduced LPG transport fuel products to help motorists cope with the rising prices of oil, gasoline and diesel,” he added.

For taxis with an average daily consumption of 50 liters the estimated fuel cost is about P1,650 at P33/liter of diesel. Roxas estimated that by using LPG, taxi operators could reduced their daily fuel cost by as much as P450 or about P13,500 a month.

“The savings generated from this can be used to augment the daily expenses like food and education, and in the long run will also benefit the commuting public because of lower transportation cost,” he added.

According to recent studies, one kilogram of LPG is equal to the running power of two liters of gasoline, while 24 kilogram tank of LPG is equal to 48 liters worth of equivalent gasoline. LPG practically lowers the cost of fuel by about 20% or roughly P6-7 per liter. In effect, the fuel expense per liter of taxis and jeepneys if they use LPG is only P24 to a liter equivalent LPG to diesel. In short, motorists get two-fold power for their money.

Roxas is supporting this conversion in light of the recent declaration of the Supreme Court on the legality of the VAT law, which would be implemented on November 1, 2005. The VAT law would include imposing tax measures on fuel and power, increasing the costs of fuel and electricity.

Roxas noted that the Land Transportation and Franchise Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and the Department of Energy are supporting the use of LPG as fuel for jeepneys and taxis.
As for conversion costs, the conversion kit from gasoline to LPG would run between P6,000 to P45,000 depending on the type and model of the taxi. The Department of Energy recommends spending around P20,000 on conversion to cover all quarters due to its strict safety regulations on gas-LPG conversions.

For jeepneys, conversion cost is about P120,000. Since conversion from diesel to LPG is expensive, jeepney associations have made a collective effort to produce jeepneys with LPG engine prototypes.

“I have consulted banks and I am appealing to them to give access to taxi and jeepney operators and offer affordable loan packages, preferably with lower interest rates and longer repayment terms,” Roxas said. “It’s a good way to beef up revenues while at the same time assist the commuting public.”

In addition to lower cost, LPG is also environment-friendly. Studies made by a major gasoline company have shown engines that run on LPG discharges 30% to 35% less carbon monoxide than those that run on conventional fuels. LPG engines emit 99% less ultra-fine particles and oxides of nitrogen, emissions that are known to wreak havoc on the environment.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Peso Recovery Should Balance Prices

Philippine Senator Mar Roxas on Wednesday said the recent recovery of the peso against the dollar should balance the prices of commodities in the market.

"If softening of the peso to the dollar was part of the reason for price hikes, then the recovery of the peso should balance off prices of commodities and keep it steady for a time," he said.

Visit Yahoo Australia for the full story.

Blog Tracking Senator Roxas

Here's an interesting blog post that mentioned Senator Roxas.

KMU opposes E-VAT
KMU Chairperson Elmer Labog said they are more alarmed with the disastrous effect of EVAT on the labor sector. “We share Senator Mar Roxas’ concern on the EVAT’s effect on the domestic employment. EVAT will be another cause of massive retrenchment and flexible labor.”

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Mar laments excessive cost of medicine

ROXAS CITY — Sen. Mar Roxas, chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade and Commerce, yesterday lamented the excessive cost of pharmaceuticals in the country, saying that with the additional 10 percent value added tax (VAT) on medical services and the impending 12 percent expanded EVAT in 2006, the costs of health "will become more sickeningly prohibitive."

Check out this story at Manila Bulletin and an opinion from columnist Efren Danao of Manila Times.

Monday, November 07, 2005

2006 budget review

Here is a news item today mentioning Senator Mar Roxas.

Cha-cha, budget top House agenda
At the Senate, Sen. Manuel Roxas II, a member of the committee on finance, said yesterday that he is ready to roll up his sleeves and use a fine-tooth comb to examine the budget when session resumes Monday. "We, as legislators, are given by the Constitution the important power of the purse, to set direction for the country through the allocation of resources," Roxas said. "This power should be taken seriously and resources should be spent wisely for the benefit of every Filipino."

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Negotiations on payment of plan-holders of bankrupt firm hit stalemate

GOVERNMENT did not make any headway in talks over the woes of College Assurance Plan (CAP) education plan holders seeking reimbursement of their contributions in the cash-strapped pre-need company.

Check out this story at Sun.Star.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Web Tracking Senator Roxas

Here are some news today mentioning Senator Mar Roxas.

Wage increase

Five senators on wage: Keep Congress out
"While nominally helping those with jobs, it makes it harder for those without jobs to get one," Sen. Manuel "Mar" Roxas III said. He also said that a legislated wage increase was generally inadvisable because it was not tied to productivity and would be inflationary.

E-VAT

Palace: Disbursement of EVAT revenues will be transparent
Sen. Manuel Roxas II said medicine prices are expected to go up because of the expanded tax, which is also imposed on doctors’ professional fees. "The prices of medicine have become so steep in this country. It’s like adding another headache on top of your headache just to buy a tablet," he said.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Agree on a direction

Senator Mar Roxas, chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs, said that the recent and recurring political noise is the product of an absence of socio-political and economic direction, which provokes certain sectors to raise their voices in both protest and disappointment.

Roxas made this statement before more than 300 businessmen, CEOs, bankers, and business community leaders at the 7th Semiconductor and Electronic Industries in the Philippines, Inc. (SEIPI) Forum—a business and technology forum with the theme “Success and Failure” held at the Makati Shangri-la Hotel last October 25.

“Both sides are not getting the whole picture,” Roxas explained. “All these talk about cha-cha, coalition government, snap or no-snap, power sharing, are all rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. The crux of the matter here is access to government and this is what they are fighting for. But no one is talking about what will happen to us, or where is our country really headed. They are not agreeing on the destination.” Roxas added that he believes that where the country should go must be the focus of our discussion and not who is going to get what. Unity, Roxas said, and power sharing would not workout in a political atmosphere where individuals or groups are poles apart in aims and ends.

“What are we really up to is a question we need to ask ourselves and answer too,” Roxas maintained. “For instance, on December, two months from now, the 180 member states of the World Trade Organization will convene. Do we have anything to say about it? Are we going to continue cooperating with these countries or what? We must have a wider world view than just our own immediate problems.”

Addressing these questions is important, Roxas explained, because much of the job opportunities Filipinos have and may receive in the future are predicated on the presence of these countries’ businesses in the Philippines. The significance of a bigger world view cannot be downplayed on account of political bickering. The question that should be asked, he said, is ‘What’s in it for the average Filipino to follow their agenda? Where’s the ‘value for money’ in having this or that?’ If both can agree on a destination, a clear and doable end-result, Roxas explained, then the political noise will surely stop.

“There is political noise because apparently no one is pointing to a specific direction where the country should go. Set a boat adrift in the middle of the open ocean with a group of people and see what happens. Agree on a direction, and I believe the noise will stop,” Roxas maintained.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Web and Blog Tracking Senator Roxas

Here are some news and interesting blog post lately mentioning Senator Mar Roxas.

E-VAT

NPA attack on RPA-ABB outposts mars All Saint's Day in Negros
In the case of EVAT, they agreed with Senators Mar Roxas and Richard Gordon in advocating for a temporary suspension of the EVAT on fuel and power.

E-Commerce

Brownout MARs forum
During the open forum, Sen. Roxas was asked on the status of the Cybercrime bill in Congress. The bill is far from being passed into law.

Politics
Ambassador Reynaldo Arcilla Addresses the Political Crisis

Senator Roxas urges local drug manufacturers to beef up capabilities to produce antiflu drug, Tamiflu, locally

Senator Mar Roxas, chair of the Senate committee on trade and commerce and author of Senate bill 2139, which seeks to amend RP patent law on medicines, today urged concerned government agencies like the DA, DTI and DOH to include as part of their preparation for an imminent bird flu epidemic, the potential production of the antiflu drug, Tamiflu, locally.

“If part of our preparation against bird flu is only to prepare the hospital beds and isolation rooms of 21 hospitals all over the country then we are bound to fail,” Roxas said. “There should be a collective effort among government agencies, international health organizations, and local pharmaceutical firms to work closely together and draw up immediate as well as long-term action against bird flu outbreak,” he added.

The DOH has announced yesterday that the government is expecting P8.5 million worth of antiflu drugs on January and another P1.7 million order through the World Health Organization. The most common antiflu drug is Oseltamivir or Tamiflu, which is exclusively manufactured by Swiss company Roche. The said prescription drug cost between P1,400 and P1,750 for a pack of 10 capsules.

“At a time when Filipino consumers are desperately trying to make ends meet or put a decent food on their table, where will they get the money to pay for these expensive antiflu medicines?” Roxas asks.

The solon has earlier prescribed that CPR (calibrated preemptive response) should be implemented to combat a possible birdflu pandemic by pushing for compulsory licensing for Tamiflu.

“Local drug manufacturers can actually help produce more affordable antiflu drugs but because of stringent patent laws to manufacture a generic Tamiflu this not possible today,” Roxas lamented.

The patent for Tamiflu runs until 2016 making it difficult for other drug companies to manufacture it as a generic drug. Generic drugs, meanwhile, are produced only after the patent expires and the product becomes public property.

Once enacted into a law, the Roxas amendment or SB 2139 will make it easier for local pharmaceutical companies to conduct research and development on patented medicines even before the product’s exclusivity expires. It is also meant to effectively curb any health threat that could affect growth strides of the economy through the lowering of prices of medicines.

“The time calls for a long-term response against a deadly disease that is threatening the world, we can not just rely on knee-jerk reactions from our agencies,” he said. The senator made the statement in light of recent threats of diseases like SARS, AIDS/HIV, the old-time killers like cancer and tuberculosis, and bird flu, whose presence is now being felt in many parts of the world.

Likewise, the solon also urged local drug manufacturing firms to keep up with the challenge and beef up operations and file compulsory licensing petition before the Intellectual Property Office or IPO for Tamiflu so that they can produce generic drugs at affordable price. He also called on the IPO to fast track applications for compulsory licensing.

The Senate committee on trade and commerce, which Roxas chairs, will open a Senate inquiry on amendments to RP patent laws when the Senate session resumes next week or on November 7.

AMENDMENT' TO HELP CURB IMPACT OF HEALTH CRISIS ON ECONOMY

Senate Bill 2139 efficiently seeks to lower the prices of medicines in the whole country by introducing amendments to current intellectual property and patent laws that govern the manufacture, sale, and production of medicines.

"The state of public health is definitively linked with economic growth," Roxas stressed. "Senate Bill 2139 aims to safeguard not only our people from deadly diseases but protect the economy from its debilitating effects."

According to a recent report, globalization and extensive migration have caused health crises to have a greater impact on society and the economy.

What aggravates the problem, according to the report, is the lack of immediate access to ample amounts of medicine and medical information, as was the case with SARS outbreak a few years back.

In Malaysia, at the onset of the Nipah and SARS outbreak, the hotel industry slumped dramatically and had incurred losses amounting to $20 million.

The Nipah contagion hit the pig farming industry in Malaysia, incurring losses of $120 million in export trade. Tax revenues suffered a loss of about $105 million. It took the country $136 million to contain just one of the outbreaks.

"We are blessed that SARS did not affect the Philippines as it did other countries," Roxas explained. "But we cannot sit back and wait for a more devastating outbreak before we should act to protect our families."

The bill, Roxas maintained, empowers government through a more liberal compulsory licensing process to import, manufacture, sell and distribute any drug or medicine based on a coordinated determination by the Department of Health and the Department of Trade and Industry.

In short, medicines will be made available by amending legal impediments, particularly intellectual property and patent laws, all the more during outbreaks and serious epidemics.
Even without having suffered the impact of SARS or bird flu, public health spending in the Philippines has already ballooned to around $1.1 billion, the highest level of spending by any ASEAN country.

"There is an urgent need to act on this bill. Part of effective governance is to be able to institute a plan before the problem strikes,” Roxas said. “We should have learned from our experiences in dealing with SARS and meningococcemia.

Also, in the July 2005 Pulse Asia survey, the most urgent personal concern of Filipinos today is how to avoid illnesses and to stay healthy at 53%.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Web and Blog Tracking Senator Roxas

Here are some interesting news and blog posts lately mentioning Senator Mar Roxas.

EVAT
Bracing for E-VAT
The Opposition’s Scorched Earth Policy

Trade Policy
What is our trade policy?

Politics
A Fresh Start on the Filipino Dream
What does the US think of our politicians?

Profile and Legacy
Mar Roxas in Wikipedia

Senator Roxas Urged PICS to Help SMEs Sell Online

Last October 25, Senator Roxas dropped by at the 4th National E-Commerce Congress organized by the Philippine Internet Commerce Society (PICS). Here are some of the interesting coverage from the event.

Help SMEs sell online, industry urged (by Chin Wong)

At a trade show last week, Senator Mar Roxas told board members of the Philippine Internet Commerce Society (PICS) they need to help more small- and medium-sized companies sell their products in cyberspace, whether this is on locally developed networks or on international portals such as e-Bay.

Click here to view Sen Mar Roxas speech and open forum. (courtesy of Bitstop)

Photos and snippets from the event can be found in the blog site of PICS President Mary Anne Tolentino as well.

CPR ON BIRD FLU - Compulsory licensing urged for Tamiflu

Senator Mar Roxas, chair of the Senate committee on trade and commerce, articulated his goal to push for the compulsory licensing of the bird flu drug Tamiflu as a “calibrated preemptive response” against a possible pandemic.

“I urge the Department of Health to seek the compulsory licensing of Tamiflu as a calibrated response to preempt the coming and spread of bird flu in the Philippines,” Roxas said. “The health department must work double time to do this because the present compulsory licensing laws impose time delay requisites like publication requirements, notices and hearings before a decision is made by the Intellectual Property Office," he added.

Roxas made this call after the recent announcement of Roche, a leading pharmaceutical company based in Switzerland, to share its technology with other companies and governments “under licenses” to fast track production of the drug.

Demand for Tamiflu, the only drug up to this point which can arrest the spread of bird flu infection, has jacked up phenomenally during the last few months due to increased presence of bird flu virus in Asia.

According to a statement released by Roche, the drug company has increased production of Tamiflu considerably by doubling production in its factories and laboratories and by signing partnership agreements with other factories.

Roche disclosed that under current agreements entered into by company, 13 factories agreed to actively participate in the manufacturing the drug, of which seven are not part of the Roche group.

“The Philippines should take advantage of this openness by Roche and see how our local drug manufacturers could also help in the manufacturing of the said drug,” Roxas said. “Other countries are having a difficult time making orders for the drug. Rather than fall in line for a purchase, why not be part of the team that manufactures Tamiflu? Roche is open to sharing its technology, of which the Philippines could benefit from immensely.”

Roche disclosed that the production of Tamiflu involves going through 10 stages, which takes about 12 months to finally produce in end-user form. It involves very “delicate steps”, Roche revealed, which are carried out in factories especially constructed for the purpose. That’s why the company is open to sharing its know-how to ensure quality control.

The patent for Tamiflu, which runs until 2016, would make it difficult for other drug companies to manufacture it as a ‘generic drug’. Generic drugs are produced when a patent expires and the product becomes public property.

“Because of stringent patent laws, to manufacture a generic Tamiflu is not possible today,” Roxas said. “That is also why I filed Senate Bill 2139 to allow amendments on patent and intellectual property laws in order to bring down the prices of medicines and make them accessible to the general public. We need this law to be passed more than ever especially with the threat of bird flu.”

The H5N1 strain of Bird Flu has caused about 63 deaths in Southeast Asia since December 2003, most were exposed to infected chickens. Vietnam tops the list, followed by Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia. The United States has already expressed its goal to stockpile more than 81 million courses of Tamiflu, but reports have indicated that other countries have beaten the US to the draw.

Consequently, Roche could only supply two million courses to the US. In case of an epidemic, reports said France, Britain, Norway, Finland and Switzerland could only treat 20% to 40% of their population. The US can only care for 2% of Americans because of the increasing orders from Roche. As of this writing, the Philippines has zero supply of Tamiflu.

“Compulsory licensing of Tamiflu is my version of a calibrated preemptive response to a possible pandemic. It is calibrated because: We are not going against any law; preemptive because we are seeking to secure ample supply of the medicine even before the disease spreads to unmanageable proportions; and a good response, obviously because we are ten steps ahead of the problem.”

At present, there are compulsory license applications pending before the IPO (Intellectual Property Office) since 1992.