Group photo of the 2021 Capability Building on Innovative Leadership for Legislative Staff (CBILLS) Program participants with officials from DAP, Senate, and House of Representatives. – Photo collage by Natalie Joy Narciso

29 April 2021 – 138 new and returning participants from the Philippine Congress attended the online opening ceremony and first installment of the 2021 Thursday Talks Webinar Series entitled “Road Towards Herd Immunity: Where Does the Philippines Stand?” under the Capability Building on Innovative Leadership for Legislative Staff (CBILLS) Program.

DAP Senior Vice President for Programs, Ms. Magdalena Mendoza welcomed the 2021 CBILLS Program participants in the online opening ceremony and emphasized the learning opportunities the participants can take advantage of amidst a crisis.  Meanwhile, Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara expressed his gratitude to the participants for passing important and timely legislation for the safety and security of our countrymen and encouraged the participants to maintain their commitment and sacrifice in their service.


Top L-R: DAP Senior VP for Programs Magdalena Mendoza andSen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara; Middle L-R: DAP VP and CfG Managing Director Imelda Caluen and Senate DepSec Arnel Bañas; Bottom L-R: HRep Dep SecGen Ramon Roque and Office of the Senate Secterary Director Irah Borinaga – Photo collage by Natalie Joy Narciso

DAP Vice President and Center for Governance Managing Director, Ms. Imelda Caluen gave an overview of the 2021 CBILLS program. Senate Deputy Secretary for Administration and Financial Services Arnel Jose Bañas and House of Representatives Deputy Secretary General of the Administrative Department Ramon Ricardo Roque introduced the 138 participants for this year’s CBILLS Program. Lastly, messages of encouragement from Senate Secretary Atty. Myra Marie Villarica and House of Representatives Director General Mark Llandro Mendoza were read and delivered on their behalf by Director Irah Ruth Borinaga and DSG Roque, respectively.

Top L-R: Dr. Beverly Ho from the Department of Health and Dr. Eduardo Banzon from Asian Development Bank Bottom L-R: Dr. Mark Ayes from UP Philippine Genome Center and Dr. Albert Domingo, a health systems specialist. – Photo collage by Natalie Joy Narciso

The opening ceremony was shortly followed by the webinar under which Dr. Albert Francis Domingo, a health systems specialist served as the moderator. DAP Center for Governance-Policy Research Office Director, Mr. Gilbert Lumantao, also gave an overview of how the Thursday Talks Webinar Series evolved from its pilot implementation and methods of delivery alongside the selection of themes and topics that are relevant to the changing socio-political and economic landscape of the country. 

For the first session of the webinar, Dr. Marc Edsel Ayes from the University of the Philippines – Philippine Genome Center described the COVID-19 and its emerging variants as well as their implications in public health policies such as the vaccination program in the Philippines. He also noted that with the variants of concern, COVID-19 disease can infect with increased ease; hence, this leads to the point of vaccination aiming to reach herd immunity as we hurdle the challenges in moving forward to live with the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the second presentation, Dr. Bevery Lorraine Ho from the Department of Health discussed that achieving herd immunity will entail the government working hand-in-hand with non-government organizations (NGOs) and the rest of the private sector. Sharing ownership of the COVID-19 response strategy has been vital, especially in the usage of various media to disseminate verified information in the form of online materials, traditional media, and the issuance of guides for medical and non-medical heads and local government leaders.

Lastly, Dr. Eduardo Banzon from the Asian Development Bank shared his insights to the presentation of Drs. Ayes and Ho and the socio-economic effects of COVID-19 pandemic especially in countries that highly depend on badly hit industries such as tourism. He also pointed out that there is a need to look into possible yearly vaccinations, impacts to the vaccination strategy, impacts to the Philippines, and the COVID-19 situation in five years. –  Jeannine Tan and Julla Katrina Jose