Reelectionist Senator Sonny Angara thanked President Rodrigo Duterte for signing Republic Act 11215 or the National Integrated Cancer Control Act, saying this will boost government efforts to combat cancer and increase the fighting chance of patients to overcome the disease.
President Duterte signed on February 14, 2019 the law that will provide the framework for an integrated and comprehensive approach to health development, family-centered cancer control policies and programs, as well as interventions at all levels of the existing health care delivery system.
"We express our gratitude to President Duterte for making this a law and sharing our concern for our cancer-stricken kababayan and making treatment more accessible and affordable," said Angara, who co-sponsored the measure that consolidated all anti-cancer laws, including Senate Bill 1570 which he filed.
"Malaking tulong po ang pagsasabatas nito sa mga may sakit na cancer at kanilang pamilya lalo na pagdating sa usapin ng gastusin. Ang kwento nga ng iba sa akin, daig mo pa ang nasalanta ng bagyong 'Yolanda' o 'Ondoy' kapag tinamaan ka ng sakit na ito," he added.
In sponsoring the measure in the Senate, Angara said the legislation would provide a holistic and comprehensive policy to tackle cancer and institute policies and programs for prevention and early detection of this disease.
According to the 2016 Philippine Statistics Authority data, neoplasms or tumors--which are commonly associated with cancer--are the second leading cause of death for Filipinos, next only to heart ailments.
A study conducted by the University of the Philippines Institute of Human Genetics showed that 189 of every 100,000 Filipinos are afflicted with cancer while 96 cancer patients die every day.
"That's four Filipinos dying every hour," Angara said. "What's worse is that cancer does not recognize gender, social status, or even age--as we have seen children, some not even old enough to write their own names, stuck in hospitals trying to fight this disease."
Angara also lamented the staggering cost of cancer diagnosis and treatment, which could drive even high-income families to sudden financial struggle.
The Philippine Health Insurance Corp. or PhilHealth currently has what it calls "Z Benefits," which provides packages for leukemia, breast and prostate cancer. However, not only are the packages limited, a study claims that this only covers around 11 percent of the total health expenditures.
Based on the information gathered by 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.
"In simple words, cancer pushes Filipino families deeper into poverty. The associated costs of screening and treatment are catastrophic. The economic burden imposed is overwhelming," Angara said.
Angara said the new law would complement the Universal Healthcare Coverage Act.
The cancer control law aims to lower the cost of treatment and the medicines to make cancer treatment affordable for all classes in the country.
It seeks to establish a National Integrated Cancer Control Council whose sole focus is to implement programs that will not only provide comprehensive, accessible and affordable treatments for all cancer patients, but will also work on minimizing the incidence of preventable cancer cases.
The Philippine Cancer Center will be created under the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) for the treatment and accommodation of cancer patients. It will also initiate research--in cooperation with other universities, hospitals and institutions--for cancer prevention and cure.
Regional cancer centers will also be established so that patients in the provinces and demographically isolated areas can acquire the proper treatment.
The government will also set up a Cancer Assistance Fund to serve as an additional safety net, hopefully to lift the financial burden of cancer and allow patients to focus instead on getting better.
Philhealth benefits for cancer will also be expanded to include screening, detection, diagnosis, treatment, supportive care, rehabilitation, and palliative care.