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2021 budget includes aid for poor cancer patients

Lord Allan Velasco
Lord Allan Velasco

TWO House leaders assured poor cancer patients of more financial assistance as funding for a cancer control program was included in the approved 2021 national budget.

In separate statements, Speaker Lord Allan Velasco and chairman of the House committee on social service Alfred Vargas lauded the inclusion of the vital funds that will provide cancer patients better access to affordable health care services.

Velasco said that P620 million had been set aside by Congress for the implementation of Republic Act 11215 or the National Integrated Cancer Control (NICC) Act of 2019, to cover the cost of cancer prevention, treatment and medicines under the program to be supervised by the Department of Health (DOH).

“With this funding, the government can now provide cancer patients with better access to more responsive and affordable health care services,” Velasco said.

The Speaker thanked the House contingent to the bicameral conference committee, led by ACT-CIS Party-list Rep. Eric Yap, for ensuring that the NICC is funded under the 2021 national budget.

Together with Yap and Davao City 1st District Rep. Paolo “Pulong” Duterte, Velasco earlier vowed to ensure that there would be enough funds in the 2021 national budget to assist cancer patients.

Based on the 2018 DOH data, around 110,000 new cases are diagnosed annually and the death toll from cancer for both adults and children is about 66,000 Filipinos per year.

Velasco is confident that raising the budget for cancer assistance will reduce the mortality, especially for poor patients.

He lamented that the high cost of cancer diagnosis and treatment could push even high-income families into dire financial straits.

According to the Cancer Coalition Philippines, a breast ultrasound—which is but one of many tests for breast cancer—could range from P600 to as high as P3,000 depending on the hospital. A colonoscopy could cost from P1,500 to around P14,000 exclusive of professional fees.

Depending on the type of cancer, he said the chemotherapy cost per session can range from P20,000 to P120,000 or more.

For his part, Vargas underscored the need for the medicines and treatment for cancer to be within reach of indigent cancer patients next year.

Vargas thanked 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.

“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 National Integrated Cancer Control (NICC) law. The cancer assistance fund will greatly ease the financial burden of cancer patients and their families,” he said.

Vargas, whose mother succumbed to cancer in 2014, is the principal author of the NICC law’s House version. 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.

According to the Global Cancer Observatory (GLOBOCAN), more than 141,000 Filipinos were diagnosed with cancer in 2018. Of this number, over 60 percent or 86,337 of those diagnosed died.

Meanwhile, a 2020 report from the World Cancer Initiative revealed 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.