By Romer R. Butuyan
MANILA — More indigent cancer patients are expected to get free medicines and treatment with the allocation of P620 million for the Department of Health’s (DOH) cancer assistance fund in the P4.506 trillion national budget for 2021.
This was revealed by House Committee on Appropriations Vice-Chairman and Quezon City 5th Dist. Rep. Alfred Vargas, saying that the National Integrated Cancer Control (NICC) even got higher funding compared to the original proposed budget of P540 million.
The lawmaker said that after President Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act No. 11215 or the National Integrated Cancer Control (NICC) Law last year, the program ran the risk of being unfunded after the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) earlier disapproved the DOH’s proposal of P540 million fund for it.
“I am particularly grateful to Speaker Lord Allan Jay Velasco and House Accounts Committee Chairman Paolo Duterte for their efforts in ensuring the effective implementation of the NICC law. The cancer assistance fund will greatly ease the financial burden of cancer patients and their families,” Vargas said.
The Quezon City solon likewise expressed his gratitude to the members of the bicameral conference committee for presenting a “united front” and allocating adequate funds to help poor cancer patients have access to treatment and medicines.
“This is only the first step. If we are to succeed in making cancer treatment more affordable, we will have to ensure the NICC law’s implementation is funded yearly until we create a fully-working system,” he added
Vargas, whose mother succumbed to cancer in 2014, and the principal author of the NICC law’s House version, explained that “RA 11215 establishes an NICC program that will serve as the framework for all of the government’s cancer-related activities, with the goal of decreasing the overall mortality and impact of all adult and childhood cancer.”
Based on the report of Global Cancer Observatory (GLOBOCAN), there are more than 141,000 Filipinos diagnosed with cancer in 2018. Of this number, over 60 percent or 86,337 of those diagnosed died.
The 2020 report from the World Cancer Initiative meanwhile shows that the Philippines placed 10th out of 10 countries in the Asia Pacific region in cancer care preparedness. The Cancer Coalition of the Philippines also said that around 96 cancer patients die in the country every day. (AI/FC/MTVN)