CANCER remains to be the third leading cause of death among adult Filipinos, and fourth in child mortality. The Department of Health (DOH) noted an increase in the incidence of cancer estimating up to eight deaths per day for childhood cancer and about 11 new cases and seven deaths every hour for adult cancer.
With approximately 110,000 new cancer cases and over 66,000 cancer deaths each year, Senate Bill 1850, otherwise known as the National Integrated Cancer Control Act, seeks to no longer ignore this often-heartbreaking disease.
Last week, Senator JV Ejercito delivered his sponsorship speech on SB 1850 which “aims to address the various gaps in the country’s cancer care continuum and implement integrated solutions from prevention, detection, correct diagnosis, treatment and palliative care, pain management and survivorship or end of life. It is envisioned to institutionalize a holistic and integrated cancer control program for all Filipino citizens.”
The drafting of the landmark bill is the culmination of “a rare alliance of cancer patient groups, health care providers, cancer advocates and champions,” according to Ejercito, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health and Demography. The multi-stakeholder coalition through long hours of consultations conducted over several years, the senator explained, engaged and worked with government, policy makers, private sector, civil society, and international development partners in developing the comprehensive provisions needed to address the complex challenges of cancer care.
Ejercito acknowledged the support of the majority of his colleagues in the Senate “who have responded with compassion to the just clamor of multi-sectoral stakeholders representing the whole spectrum of Philippine society.” These are senators Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, Nancy Binay, Franklin Drilon, Win Gatchalian, Richard Gordon, Risa Hontiveros, Panfilo Lacson, Loren Legarda, Francis Pangilinan, Grace Poe, Ralph Recto, Antonio Trillanes, Joel Villanueva, Cynthia Villar, and Juan Miguel Zubiri.
Angara is also at the forefront of advocating for an integrated cancer control and management program in the country. Angara’s Senate Bill 1570 provides for a Cancer Assistance Fund to support the medical and treatment assistance program for cancer patients. It further seeks to expand PhilHealth’s current benefits to include screening, detection, diagnosis, treatment assistance, palliative and supportive care, survivorship follow up care and rehabilitation, for all types and stages of cancer, and for both adults and children. SB 1570 likewise aims to ensure that there’s sufficient supply of essential cancer medicines and cancer control related vaccines, which should be made accessible and affordable.
“We must afford every Filipino cancer patient with the highest possible chance of survival. We should also create a supportive environment for people living with cancer and cancer survivors, especially their families and carers, to reduce distress and ensure their well-being,” Angara said.
Ejercito said that through the enactment of the National Integrated Cancer Control Act, “Our vision is [to create] a patient-centric, caring, supportive support system within a progressive and enabling environment so that Filipinos affected with cancer can live with dignity and enjoy long, productive, and meaningful lives.” He urged the Senate to approve the measure “to give hope to Filipino cancer patients, especially the underprivileged and marginalized…”
Teodoro B. Padilla is the executive director of Pharmaceutical and the Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP). Medicine Cabinet is a weekly PHAP column that aims to promote awareness on public health and health care related issues. PHAP and its member companies represent the research-based pharmaceutical and health care industry.