Solons eager to push National Integrated Cancer Bill
The good news is that a number of lawmakers are so interested to see a National Integrated Cancer Act that each one wants to file his/her own version of the bill, with some tweaking here and there.
The bad news — which is not news — is that many Filipinos who are added daily to the cancer-stricken list have little or no clue as to how to begin their medical journey.
Credit goes to the Cancer Coalition Philippines (CCPh) for again getting lawmakers interested. The coalition is composed of cancer-patient support groups, healthcare providers, cancer advocates and champions engaging and working with the government, policymakers, the private sector, civil society, and international development partners.
CCPh aims to be the driving force in inspiring breakthroughs, catalyzing innovations and good practice models for safe, quality, accessible, affordable cancer care, better health outcomes, and better futures for cancer patients, the survivors and their families. It is working for the elimination of barriers to cancer care by institutionalizing cancer-related government policies into law.
And so finally, lawmakers are outdoing one another in pushing their bills. Days ago, Sen. JV Ejercito, chair of the Senate committee on health, and Rep. Alfred D. Vargas (5th district, Quezon City) filed their versions in their respective chambers.
Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala, cofounder of ICanServe Foundation which is part of CCPh, said many lawmakers are interested to file a bill using the CCPh version. Vargas used the CCPh version while Ejercito did some tweaking on appropriation. Representatives Jericho Nograles and Chiqui Roa-Puno will file the CCPh version with some minor changes, also on appropriation and the role of local government units. Rep. Helen Tan, chair of the House committee on health, will file the Department of Health version (which is also CCPh’s), but also with some tweaking. Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy might also file one.
CCPh has had sessions with the DOH. It is hoped that later, a technical working group can combine all versions and come up with a national, integrated and workable one.
CCPh has provided these stark facts and figures: Cancer incidence is increasing and is ranked among the leading causes of death among adults and children. Starting in 2012, 189 of 100,000 Filipinos are afflicted with cancer yearly. At least 3,900 children are diagnosed with cancer yearly.
The actual cancer burden and cancer mortality in the Philippines are in fact very much higher than what is being reported. Many cases remain uncounted, unrecorded and unreported due to the absence of national cancer registries.
Survival rates for the most common adult cancers (i.e., lung, breast, colon, cervical, prostate, liver) are relatively low compared to other countries in Asia and the world.
For women’s all-cancer mortality rate, the Philippines ranks second highest among 15 countries in Asia, with 124 deaths per 100,000 population.
Compared to other Asian countries, the Philippines has the highest mortality rate for breast cancer (27 per 100,000 population) and prostate cancer (13 per 100,000 population). Lung cancer mortality rates are also high, exceeding 40 per 100,000 population. For breast cancer, the Philippines has the lowest survival rate (.58 mortality to incidence ratio).
In the last Congress, Magsanoc-Alikpala said, 36 bills were filed, each one espousing a tiny aspect of what CCPh is espousing, but none of the bills prospered.
In hailing the filing of the bills, CCPh made known its hopes for cancer patients:
“Senate Bill 1545 and House Bill 6153 seek to bring help to thousands of Filipinos fighting cancer, across all types of cancer, from all ages and all stages.
“The bills aim for the establishment of an integrated, robust, well connected, accredited network of cancer care centers in strategic areas of the country; strengthening of the human resource complement; optimizing quality healthcare systems; improvement in the information systems; expansion and introduction of innovative PhilHealth benefits for cancer patients, institutionalizing social protection mechanisms for cancer patients, persons living with cancer, survivors, their families and carers, among other provisions.
“As the filing is the initial step in the passage of any law, it is the hope of the coalition that committee hearings will be scheduled soon and that Congress sees the need to prioritize the passage of this law.”
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