MANILA, Philippines – The Senate on Monday, November 12, passed a bill seeking to establish a Philippine Cancer Center and to institutionalize a national control program.
Voting 18-0, the Senate approved Senate Bill 1850, sponsored by Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito, on 3rd and final reading. The bill seeks to address gaps in cancer care and integrate policies for its prevention, detection, correct diagnosis, treatment, and management, among others.
“Through the National Integrated Cancer Control Act, we can give cancer patients a choice, we can give them hope – hope that they will have an equitable and affordable cancer treatment and care especially for the underprivileged and marginalized Filipinos,” Ejercito said in a statement.
Cancer is considered the 3rd leading cause of adult death and the 4th for child morbidity in the Philippines.
The Department of Health said there are an estimated 8 deaths per day for child cancer and up to 11 new cases and 7 deaths per hour for adult cancer. This translates to almost 110,000 new cancer cases and over 66,000 cancer deaths every year.
Under the bill, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation shall expand the benefit packages to include screening, detection, diagnosis, treatment assistance, supportive care, survivorship follow-up care and rehabilitation, and end of-life-care for all types and stages of cancer in both adults and children.
Once the bill becomes law, all health maintenance organizations would be required to cover genetic counseling and testing, cancer screening, and diagnostic and palliative care.
Cancer-related absences from work of member employees and voluntary members shall be covered and compensated by the sickness benefits of the Social Security System and the disability benefits of the Government Service Insurance System.
The measure also mandates the establishment of the Philippine Cancer Center, under the control and supervision of the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital. Regional cancer centers shall also be established nationwide.
The bill also calls for the establishment of the Cancer Assistance Fund to support the cancer medicine and treatment assistance program. The fund shall ensure a steady supply of cancer drugs and cancer control related vaccines to patients.
Aside from Ejercito, other authors of the bill include Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senate Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, and senators Juan Edgardo Angara, Maria Lourdes Nancy Binay, Leila de Lima, Loren Legarda, Antonio Trillanes IV, Joel Villanueva, Grace Poe, Cynthia Villar, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Sherwin Gatchalian, Richard Gordon, Gregorio Honasan II, Risa Hontiveros, Panfilo Lacson, Manny Pacquiao, Francis Pangilinan, and Aquilino Pimentel III.
Counterpart measures in the House of Representatives are pending with its various committees. – Rappler.com
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email firstname.lastname@example.org