Lawmaker hits low budget for DOH cancer aid program

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — A ranking congressman has questioned what he described as insufficient funding for the government’s cancer care and treatment program under the proposed P5-trillion national budget for next year.

House social services committee chair Alfred Vargas said the P786-million appropriation for the program under the budget of Department of Health (DOH) for 2022 would not suffice to address the needs of cancer patients in the country.

In budget hearing earlier this week, the Quezon City 5th District congressman then asked colleagues in the House to increase the funding for the Cancer, Supportive Care and Palliative Care Medicines Access Program (CSPMAP) by P800 million to P1.586 billion.

Vargas, principal author of the National Integrated Cancer Control Act (NICCA) or Republic Act 11215, stressed that cancer remains a leading cause of death and disability in the Philippines, with 157,000 new cases reported yearly.

He said the P756 million proposed budget for 2022 would only benefit some 26,000 cancer patients “partially or fully assisted for their expenses in medicines.”

“With an additional P800 million budget for the 2022 CSPMAP, we can increase our target beneficiaries to about 60,000 patients or at least one-third of the cancer patients in the country,” the congresman said.

Vargas said several cancer care advocates and families of cancer victims have sought his help in increasing the 2022 budget for cancer care.

“While they appreciate that cancer care and treatment has been given a budget this year, their concern is that it would not be enough considering the current economic situation caused by the pandemic,” he said.

Family members of cancer patients have either lost their jobs or saw their incomes diminished since last year, he said.

Vargas cited the support by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco in allocating funds for cancer care and treatment after the Department of Budget and Management removed the allocation sought by the DOH in the 2021 budget.

Velasco cited the importance of fully implementing the National Cancer Control Act, saying adequate funds have to be provided to ensure that the law “could effectively serve its purpose of strengthening government efforts to combat cancer and increasing the fighting chance of patients to overcome the disease.”

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