Inauguration of the KOICA building Lung Center of the Philippines

21 March 2012

Mr Hye-Min Lee, Korean Ambassador to the Philippines;

Dr Enrique Ona, Secretary of Health of the Philippines;

Mr Herbert M. Bautista, Mayor of Quezon City;

Mr Jong-Sun Lee (이 종선), Vice-President of KOICA;

International and national partners,

guests from the Department of Health and the Lung Center of the Philippines;

Esteemed colleagues;

Ladies and gentlemen:

Magandang Umaga Sa inyong Lahat
===== Good morning to all of you

Nagagalak akong Makita kayo dito
=====I am glad to see you here

It is my pleasure to be here today with such a distinguished group for the inauguration of the National Center for Pulmonary Research in the Lung Center of the Philippines.

On a personal note, I am pleased and proud that the Government of the Republic of Korea — my home country — has supported the Center for Pulmonary Research both technically and financially through the Korean International Cooperation Agency, or KOICA.

I am equally pleased to hear that the Philippines is on track and likely to reach the target of Millennium Development Goal 6, which is to reduce by half the rate of TB prevalence by 2015.

This achievement is the result of strong political commitment and the hard work of health care providers on the frontlines of the battle against tuberculosis — doctors, nurses, microscopists, midwives, barangay health workers, physicians in treatment centres and programme coordinators.

I would like to take this opportunity to convey my deepest appreciation to all those who have worked tirelessly in the prevention and control of tuberculosis.

But we have to remember that achieving the MDG target does not mean we are done.

Our goal is to eliminate TB.

That means that we cannot rest until we have less than one incident case per one million people.

Unfortunately, we are still far from reaching that goal.

Once — when a promising new TB drug called rifampicin was introduced in the late 1960s — we thought that TB would be eliminated.

But then multidrug resistant strains of the disease appeared. These strains continue to be a major challenge to TB control efforts to this day.

Compared to other diseases, tuberculosis research has lagged. TB control programmes in most countries still rely on technology and techniques that are more than a century old.

For example, the so-called "sputum smear microscopy" is still the main method of diagnosis – much as it was in the late 1800s. And the six-month treatment regimen has been the international standard for 40 years and counting.

And we still do not have a vaccine that protects everyone. BCG is the only vaccine available. It is relatively effective in protecting children but does little to protect adults against developing the infectious form of tuberculosis.

Now multidrug resistant TB presents an entirely new set of challenges for researchers and TB programmes worldwide. Patients have to take drugs that are costly and more toxic for at least two years, which further complicates strategies to fight TB.

This is the current situation…. ____ … So what's the solution?

For starters, more effective and widely accessible new tools for diagnostics, drugs and vaccines are needed to make a greater impact on the TB burden… to move beyond the MDG target and closer to TB elimination.

During the past decade, efforts to develop new diagnostics, drugs and vaccines for TB have intensified. Recently a new technique that detects rifampicin-resistant TB within two hours was endorsed by WHO.

Considerable progress has been made. Promising new TB drugs and potential vaccines are being developed as we speak. But the process of testing and perfecting remains long and complicated.

With state-of-the-art laboratories and other facilities, the Pulmonary Research Center will play a key role in testing and improving treatments for TB in the Philippines.

Indeed, the key to success in the Philippines has been the strong political support — particularly from Dr Ona and the Department of Health — and tremendous coordination among technical, academic and research agencies.

You can see this spirit of collaboration everywhere: countries and research centres pooling knowledge to assist every country in the Region in the fight against TB.

I look forward to the day in the near future when this centre we are inaugurating today will become a clearinghouse for research and practices that can be shared nationally, regionally and globally to move towards TB elimination.

Once again, I want to express my deep appreciation to KOICA and the Korean Government for their timely support.

In addition, I would like to thank the Philippine Department of Health and other national and international partners who have helped make this happen.

Congratulations again on the inauguration of the Pulmonary Research Center.

We wish you the best of luck and good health.

Thank you.