NIH groundbreaking: A giant leap for health research in PH

Eighteen years after its enactment through Republic Act 8503, the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) new 15-story state-of-the art building will start construction at the area being occupied by the Sports Science and Wellness Center of UP Manila and the Old Science Centrum Building. The groundbreaking of the new building was held on July 20, 2016. It was attended by UP President Alfredo Pascual; Chancellor Carmencita Padilla; National Scientist, University Prof. Emeritus and former chancellor Dr. Ernesto Domingo;former Chancellor Ramon Arcadio; former NIH Executive DirectorsDr. Jaime Galves Tan, Dr. Vicente Belizario, Dr. Lulu Bravo, and Dr. GenerosoAbes;guests from the Department of Health,vice chancellors; deans and directors of UP Manila; and NIH institute directors. “Today we are also making history, breaking new ground for the construction of the new NIH building, which (I must say) is also a giant leap for health research in the country,” stated Vice Chancellor for Researchand NIH Executive Director Dr. Eva Cutiongco-Dela Paz who hosted the event. In her message, Chancellor Carmencita Padilla recounted three significant events a long way back that led to the creation of the NIH at UP Manila. These were the research integration efforts made by former UPM Chancellor Ernesto Domingo during his term, such as the setting up of the Office of Research Services and the creation of the Institutes of Socio Biomedical Research (ISBMR) as part of the 1988 reorganization of UP Manila. She also recalled the conceptualization of the NIH by then Vice Chancellor for Planning and Development Dr. Alex de Leon and its approval by the Board of Reagents during the administration of former Chancellor Perla Santos Ocampo. Republic Act 8503 was approved in 1998 institutionalizing the NIH and creating its various institutes. “The NIH is a project of seven chancellors and I am proud of being the one to implement it,” stated Chancellor Padilla Apart from Chancellor Padilla and Drs. Domingo and Santos Ocampo, the fourother chancellors who helped in envisioning the NIH were Chancellors Alfredo Ramirez, Marita Reyes, Ramon Arcadio, and Manuel Agulto. Chancellor Padilla recalled that since the creation of the NIH, its offices and facilities had been housed in the old Bureau of Soils building that was not designed for the conduct of health researches. She narrated that during the NIH’s first week in the building, she was the lone occupant because nobody wanted to stay in the antiquated facility, where, she said, there were spirits. She recalled that after one week, she left the building and a spirit questor was invited to the building. She shared the efforts of the past administrations to raise funds for a new building. With the help of UP President Alfredo Pascual, one billion pesos was allotted in the national government’s 2012 budget for its construction. “We are looking forward to a home where we can be in one roof, where we can interact with each other and with the technology we can use for our collaborations,” she declared. In his message, Pres. Pascual affirmed that after the approval of UP’s budget in 2012 under the General Appropriations Act, he allotted and prioritized 1 billion pesos for the construction of the NIH building. He acknowledged that the funds were from former President Benigno Aquino’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). The UP president added that in his six years as UP president, he was able to get a total of Php 9 billion for infrastructure projects and Php 3.15 bilion for PGH equipment modernization. “When I was nominated as UP president, I saw UP as becoming a great university of the 21st century but for us to be able to achieve this, many things have to be undertaken, one of which is providing an enabling environment. There should be modern physical facilities and modern information system. That time, the budget of UP was on a decline. Coming from the corporate sector, I was so convinced then that UP was saleable because it was declared as the national university in 2008,” Pres. Pascual stated. He shared that the first opportunity to get money was at the end of 2012 when Php 1.2 billion was granted to the university of which Php 1 billion was allotted to the NIH building. “The journey took 18 years and the steadfast stand that your academic leaders have taken has made this day a reality. Now we will have an NIH that is in a position to pursue higher value and higher impact research and enhance our country’s research capabilities that will lead to the formulation and improvement of policies and programs and empowerment of our human resources.Through the various programs of NIH and its complex of institutes, we may be able to carry out the double task of achieving better health and over all wellness for all of us in this country,” he intoned as he thanked the scientists, researchers, support staff, and administrators for accomplishing their work and encouraged them to surpass their achievements. After the messages, each of the NIH directors placed significant documents on their respective institutes in the time capsule before it was lowered. The groundbreaking followed. The construction is hoped to be finished in 2018 based on the estimates of the contractors. Writer: Charmaine Lingdas/IPPAO-UPM Photos (for this article and in the FB link): Joseph A. Bautista/IPPAO-UPM