Event Details

The country has reached six uninterrupted months of quarantine and is heading toward the world's longest and strictest lockdown, with no end in sight. Since the economy was reopened in July, the Philippines remains struggling to keep the virus spread in check while leaving most of the economy functioning, a growing problem that demands a long-term fix or risks putting more lives in danger.


The challenge is glaring. While since March the Duterte administration sacrificed economic prosperity by locking down most of the archipelago to save lives, the National Task Force Against COVID-19 said the same tack is not feasible in the long run without pushing down more Filipinos to poverty.


The persistent rise in COVID-19 cases, even as lockdowns were eased, is becoming a source of concern for experts and even netizens who earlier questioned a government decision to relax Metro Manila's lockdown last June 1 despite rising cases. In this ANZCHAM Virtual Monthly Membership Meeting (MMM), we have invited a health expert and advocate, Dr Manuel M. Dayrit, former Secretary of Health, Philippines, to share with us some insights and trends on where the Philippines is standing in its fight against COVID-19. Are we winning or losing?

Resource Speaker

  • Dr. Manuel M. Dayrit (Former Health Secretary at Department of Health)

    Dr. Manuel M. Dayrit

    Former Health Secretary at Department of Health

    Manuel M. Dayrit has been a public health practitioner for 44 years. He started his career as a community physician in Davao del Norte. He has worked in the public, private and NGO sectors as well as in academia.

    He was Secretary of Health (Minister) of the Philippines from 2001-2005. He led the DOH in the suppression of SARS in 2003 earning him the title of “SARS Czar.” Under his leadership, the
    DOH was recognized for its effective implementation of disease control programs including for dengue, tuberculosis, and vaccine-derived polio, among others. During his term, the Department of Health widened the use of low-cost generic medicines as well as broadened access to social insurance (PhilHealth) by indigents. In recognition of its accomplishments, DOH was cited among the top-performing government agencies in social surveys and by the Makati Business Club. It was also gained citations for its efforts to curb corruption in the organization.

    From 2005 to 2012, Dr. Dayrit was Director of the Department of Human Resources for Health at the World Health Organization in Geneva. He contributed to the development and adoption by Member States of a global ethical code for the international recruitment of health personnel.

    From 2013 to 2019, he was Dean of the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health where he led a young a committed faculty in training of physicians with a dual degree of MD, MBA. ASMPH has consistently placed among the top 5 medical schools in the Physician Medical Licensure Exams.

    Dr. Dayrit was the founding Director of the Philippines Field Epidemiology Training Program and directed it from 1986 to 1997. Many graduates of this ongoing program have contributed to widening the epidemic control and disease surveillance network of the public health system. For work in the control of AIDS, cholera, and Red Tide, he was named an Outstanding Young Scientist by the National Academy of Science and Technology in 1990.

    His private sector experience includes being Vice-President, Office of Regulatory Affairs of United Laboratories Inc. from Sept 1998 to Feb 2001 and first medical director of Health First, the company’s health maintenance organization. He was also Vice-President for Medical Services of Aetna Health Care from 1997 to 1998.

    Dr. Dayrit has degrees from the Ateneo de Manila University (AB,1972; honorable mention); the University of the Philippines College of Medicine (MD, 1976); and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (MSc with distinction, 1982; British Council Scholar). In 2006, he was inducted an Honorary Fellow of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. In 2008, he was the Centennial Awardee for Health of the Alumni Association of the University of the Philippines.

    Dr. Dayrit has published articles in the areas of community health, primary health care, epidemic investigations, and health systems. He continues to teach and do research as Adjunct Professor at the Ateneo de Manila University School of Medicine and Public Health. His research focuses on primary care and the implementation of the Universal Health Care Law of 2019 (Republic Act 11223). He is active in COVID-19 control efforts through private sector engagement with government.

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