In anticipation of the influx of cancer patients seeking treatment at the government health facilities, Senator Sonny Angara assured that there are funds under the national budget for this purpose.
The head of the Philippine General Hospital’s Cancer Institute, Dr. Jorge Ignacio recently noted that the state-run institution is “bracing for the worst” in the next two to three years as more cancer patients flock to them to seek treatment.
Dr. Ignacio explained that cancer patients who were sidelined during the pandemic have started to come out again to resume their treatments. He said these delays in their treatments have cause malignancies in some patients to worsen.
As one of the authors and sponsors of Republic Act 11215 or the National Integrated Cancer Control Act, Angara said that cancer continues to be among the leading causes of death in the Philippines.
Based on preliminary data provided by the Philippine Statistics Authority, cancer was the third leading cause of death among Filipinos from January to May of 2022—representing a 9.8 percent share just behind ischaemic heart diseases (18.6%) and cerebrovascular diseases (10.4%).
The Philippine data is not far off from the global average. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) kill 41 million people every year. Cardiovascular diseases account for most of the NCD deaths or 17.9 million people annually, followed by cancers at 9.3 million people, and chronic respiratory diseases at 4.1 million people.
In its 2020 cancer country profile on the Philippines, the WHO pegged the total number of cancer cases at 141,021, using 2018 data. A total of 86,337 cancer-related deaths were also registered in 2018. Based on 2016 data, the WHO noted that there were 245,612 premature deaths from NCDs in the Philippines, of which 18.2 percent were caused by cancer.
“As Chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Finance, we have always ensured that there is funding for programs and projects to help our people who are afflicted with cancer, particularly those who cannot afford the expensive treatments,” Angara said.
Under the 2020 General Appropriations Act (GAA), a total of P183.96 million for NCDs as a whole. The following year, the amount was increased to P771.3 million—taking into account the passage of RA 11215, specifically the implementation of the National Integrated Cancer Control Program.
In 2022, the budget for cancer reached P1.7 billion in anticipation of the increase in the number of cancer patients who would seek treatment after the pandemic. For this year, the GAA contained a total of P1.56 billion. Close to P1.1 billion of this amount would go to cancer prevention, detection, treatment and care.
In the special provision introduced by Angara in the 2023 GAA, it was specified that the said budget will be used exclusively for the procurement and delivery of cancer, supportive care and palliative care medicines covering the eight treatable cancer types.
Angara also put in another special provision for the allocation of P500 million to shoulder the cost of cancer prevention, detection, treatment and its care-related components, including the diagnostics and laboratories needed by cancer patients.
“These are but just small initiatives that we in Congress have introduced over the years, working on limited resources, to help our kababayans who are afflicted with cancer. We have yet to see the day when a cure is found to end cancer, but until that day arrives, rest assured we will continue to look for ways to bring hope to cancer patients and their loved ones,” Angara said.
One of the problems faced by the PGH Cancer Institute is the limitations in the number of patients it can accommodate at any given time.
RA 11215 provides for the establishment of a new Cancer Center, under the control and supervision of the Department of Health.
The P6-billion Cancer Center has already been approved as the first public-private partnership of the Marcos administration and is envisioned to provide a wide range of services including the treatment of patients with cancer; conducting research on cancer prevention and care; provide training for medical professionals, health officers and social workers; and assisting universities, hospitals and research institutions in their studies of cellular anomalies.
RA 11215 also mandates the accreditation and designation of comprehensive cancer care centers, specialty cancer centers, stand-alone specialty cancer centers, regional cancer centers and cancer satellites or stand-alone clinics in order to serve more patients across the country.