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House minority seeks probe on US-funded biolabs 

DA.GOV.PH

THE HOUSE minority bloc has called for an investigation on United States-funded biolaboratories of the agricultural department to ensure that these are not being used to advance geopolitical objectives.  

Three lawmakers filed on Tuesday House Joint Resolution No. 16, calling for an investigation on foreign-funded biolaboratories of the Department of Agriculture (DA), including an animal-disease diagnostic laboratory worth $643,000 funded by the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), a combat support agency under the US Department of National Defense (DoD). 

“The task of civilian cooperation on bilateral agricultural concerns lies within the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), not with the agencies within the US DoD,” says the resolution filed by House Deputy Minority Leader France L. Castro, Gabriela Party-list Rep. Arlene D. Brosas, and Kabataan Party-list Rep. Raoul Danniel A. Manuel. 

The project referred to is the Regional Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (RADDL), located at Paraiso, Tarlac City. It was constructed in September 2020.  

According to the resolution, the DTRA must disclose whether there are unspecified military objectives in funding the laboratory or other laboratories in the future, as well as disclose the extent of its involvement.   

The resolution also called to investigate foreign-funded non-profit EcoHealth Alliance for also funding biolaboratories in the Philippines.  

“These projects should also be viewed on the current moves to expand the areas of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) and may also pose a threat to our national security as well as infringe on our sovereignty,” said Ms. Castro, who represents the ACT Teachers Party-list.  

In 2017, the DA implemented the Enhancement of the Biosafety and Biosecurity Capabilities at the Department of Agriculture Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories or the BSS Project, in partnership with the DTRA, to create “a strong and functional animal disease diagnostic laboratory network,” as stated in a 2019 department order.  

The US Embassy in Manila and the DA did not immediately respond to requests for comment via Viber. — Beatriz Marie D. Cruz 

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