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Congress boosts cancer fight fund

February 5, 2023 Jester P. Manalastas 259 views

LAWMAKERS agreed to provide a budget for the cancer prevention program of the government.

Deputy Speaker Batangas Rep. Ralph Recto said from zero budget in the proposed 2023 national budget, Congress boosted to P1.56 billion the line item.

Under the 2023 General Appropriations Act (GAA), two cancer cancer funds will be provided with ample budget to boost the prevention, detection, treatment and care pursuant to Republic Act 11215, the National Integrated Cancer Control Act.

Specifically, it will fund the “procurement and delivery of cancer, supportive care and palliative care medicines covering the eight treatable cancer types,” as stipulated by a special provision in the 2023 GAA.

On top of this is the P500 million for “Cancer Assistance Fund” for cancer prevention, detection, treatment, diagnostics, and care for eight priority cancer types.

But the assistance pool cancer patients can tap is bigger than the two program’s combined P1.56 billion, Recto said.

First, there is a P32.6 billion “Medical Assistance to Indigent and Financially-Incapacitated Patients” in the 2023 GAA. Up from P21.3 billion last year, the fund will be administered by the DOH.

Also, the validity of 2022 Cancer Assistance Program’s P529.2 million appropriation has been extended until the end of 2023, pursuant to a joint DOH-DBM memorandum.

Recto lauded the Health and Budget secretaries for moving the expiry dates on this fund “because money for cancer fight should not be perishable.”

After the earmarks for cancer funds disappeared in the 2023 National Expenditure Program, which serves as the proposed national budget, the OIC Health Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire asked Congress to restore the line-item appropriations for the two programs.

Recto backed her call, emphasizing that “restoring the cancer fund in the national budget is one doctor’s order we cannot ignore.”

“The cancer fund is not a tumor that must be excised from the budget. It is a treatment tool which, on the contrary, must be boosted,” he said.

Cancer killed almost 60,000 Filipinos in 2021, or one every nine minutes.

“But 7 in 10 cancer patients drop out of treatment for lack of funds. Filipino families are one cancer diagnosis away from bankruptcy,” Recto said.

Recto admitted that state funds “to fight cancer are not enough, and way, way below the ideal.”

But invoking the budget deficit as an excuse to cut cancer funds from government spending is cruel, Recto said.