HOUSE Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin G. Romualdez and Tingog party-list Rep. Yedda Marie K. Romualdez yesterday renewed a call for the creation of a government-run cancer specialty hospital devoted to cancer patients, especially the poor.
While the President signed National Integrated Cancer Control Act (NICCA) or Republic Act (RA) No. 11225 in 2019 allowing the creation of cancer specialty hospitals and clinics by the private sector, the Romualdez couple underscored the need to build a government-run hospital for cancer patients under House Bill (HB) No. 1150 or “An Act Establishing a National Cancer Center to be known as the National Cancer Center of the Philippines” to ensure a comprehensive high-quality cancer care services at more affordable prices.
The Romualdezes sought the creation of the Philippine National Cancer Center (PNCC) patterned after the Philippine Heart Center (PHC), the National Kidney Transplant Institute (NKTI), the Lung Center of the Philippines (LCP) and the Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC), which were all built during the Marcos administration.
“Kailangang government funded para hindi madehado ang mga mahihirap na cancer patients. Iyan ang ating malasakit (compassion) sa kanila,” they said of the bill which remains pending before the House committee on government reorganization.
According to the couple, their proposal would complement the Cancer Control Act that President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte signed last February 2019 aimed at institutionalizing a national integrated program to fight cancer cases and improve cancer survivorship in the country.
“We have to complement the newly signed law on battling cancer by building the cancer specialty government hospital to take care of cancer patients. Remember that cancer is the third leading cause of death in the country,” Romualdez stressed who sought an initial P1 billion funding under the national budget to start building the cancer specialty hospital.
FUNDING FOR CANCER CONTROL LAW
Speaker Lord Allan Velasco vowed to ensure funding for the implementation of RA No. 11215 or NICCA.
Velasco said the House of Representatives will push for adequate funding for the NICCA during the bicameral conference on the proposed P4.506-trillion national budget for 2021.
“The importance of this law and its full implementation cannot be overstated. We have to make sure that it is sufficiently funded so it could effectively serve its purpose of strengthening government efforts to combat cancer and increasing the fighting chance of patients to overcome the disease,” Velasco said.
Velasco shared the sentiments of Davao City Rep. Paolo “Pulong” Duterte, who earlier underscored the need for Congress to ensure that the NICCA is adequately funded.
“Congressman Pulong and I want to make sure that cancer treatment and care will be more equitable and affordable for all, especially for the underprivileged, poor and marginalized Filipinos as envisioned in the NICCA,” Velasco said, noting that cancer care and treatment could be costly.
As one of the principal authors of NICCA, Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas said “I am grateful to Speaker Lord Allan Jay Velasco and Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte for their commitment to provide adequate funding for the law’s implementation next year.”
“The assurance of Speaker Velasco and Congressman Duterte rescues the law from the risk of irrelevance. It will give hope to thousands of cancer patients and their families. I, together with my fellow cancer advocates, have been pushing for adequate funding for NICCA since it was signed into law in February 2019.
When the 2021 National Expenditure Program was submitted to Congress last August, I requested that a budgetary line item worth P550 million for NICCA’s implementation be included in next year’s budget. This push became even stronger after I found out from Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje that the Department of Budget and Management had disapproved the Department of Health’s Tier 2 proposal amounting to P540 million for the Cancer Assistance Fund,” Vargas said.
“Like Congressman Duterte, my mother also fought cancer. Knowing the pain of losing a loved one to this dreaded disease fuels my drive to ease the suffering of cancer patients. I know Congressman Duterte’s mother is proud—just as mine would have been—about the advocacy we share,” Vargas said.
“I believe no Filipino family deserves to lose their loved one, give up their savings, house or even livelihood, and be buried in debt due to cancer.”
Pulong Duterte, chairman of the House committee on accounts, said he has requested Velasco and House committee on appropriations chairman and ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Yap to ensure that enough funds will be given to the agency to save more lives by providing assistance to cancer patients.
“My Mom is a cancer survivor. Diagnosed in year 2016 and successfully recovered more than a year after treatment and long-term survivorship transitions. It is our duty to provide help to every fellow citizen to our best. Give them a second chance to live,” Pulong Duterte said.
“We need to prioritize the needs of our fellow country men specially those who don’t have enough income or capabilities to survive their illnesses,” Pulong Duterte added.
For his part, Yap said, “I, myself, have people close to me who either succumbed to cancer or survived cancer and its very devastating. The order from Speaker Velasco and Rep. Duterte is very clear as the Committee on Appropriations chair, I will see to it that sufficient funding will be included for NICCA during the bicameral conference of the 2021 budget.”