Herrera vows to restore P500M cancer fund in 2023 budget

September 14, 2022 Ryan Ponce Pacpaco 840 views

A LAWMAKER has vowed to exert all efforts to restore the P500 million line item appropriation for cancer patients in the 2023 national budget.

“We will do everything in our power to make sure that the cancer assistance fund will be included in the final version of the 2023 national budget,” House Deputy Minority Leader and Bagong Henerasyon (BH) Party-list Representative Bernadette Herrera said.

The veteran lawmaker underscored the importance of providing life-saving support to cancer patients who have significant financial needs.

“This financial assistance from the government will help defray treatment-related expenses for cancer patients who are facing financial challenges, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic that really brought them to their knees,” she pointed out.

During the House deliberations on the 2023 budget proposal of the Department of Health (DOH), Officer-in-Charge (OIC) Maria Rosario Vergeire, upon questioning by Herrera, revealed that the cancer assistance fund was not included in the National Expenditure Program (NEP) submitted by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to Congress.

The assistance fund is a major component of Republic Act 11215 or the National Integrated Cancer Control (NICC) Act of 2019, which aims to provide cancer patients better access to affordable health care services.

Vergeire said that as soon as they found out the P500-million cancer fund was not included in the NEP, they moved to restore the cancer fund, but the DBM turned down the same.

The acting DOH chief then appealed to House Committee on Appropriations members, scrutinizing the government’s spending plan to restore the cancer assistance fund in next year’s national budget.

In support of Vergeire’s appeal, Herrera told her fellow lawmakers: “I hope that this committee was able to hear that. Napakahalaga po nito for our cancer patients, so I hope maibalik po natin sa DOH ‘yong P500 million assistance na ‘yon for our cancer patients. Napakahirap po, ang dami pong lumalapit po sa atin. So, I hope we could consider that in this committee.”

The NICC Act, which was signed into law by then-President Rodrigo Duterte in February 2019, establishes a National Integrated Cancer Control Program, which would serve as the framework for all cancer-related activities of the government.

The program aims to decrease the overall mortality and impact of all adult and childhood cancer; lessen the incidence of preventable cancer in adults and children; and prevent cancer recurrence, metastasis, and secondary cancer among survivors and people living with cancer.

It also seeks to provide timely access to optimal cancer treatment and care for all cancer patients; make cancer treatment and care more affordable and accessible; improve the experience of cancer treatment and care for patients and families; support the recovery and reintegration into society of the cancer survivors; and eliminate various forms of the burden on patients, people living with cancer, survivors, and their families.