The 12 promises of the Cancer Law

POINT OF VIEW - Christine Fajardo - The Philippine Star

In observance of World Cancer Awareness month and the 5th anniversary of the National Integrated Cancer Control Act (NICCA), I am writing to help explain the law’s provisions to the lay, as suggested by Philippine STAR reader, Adora Perez from the Corridor of Hope patient group.

The 1st NICCA Localization Summit in December 2023 aimed to translate NICCA’s promises into action, focusing on its localization, starting with the Inter-Local Health Zone (ILHZ) of Metro Laguna and Calabarzon. The summit, organized by the Cancer Warriors Foundation and Cancer Coalition Philippines, culminated in a Cancer Action Agenda in Calabarzon.

Carmen Auste, CEO of Cancer Warriors Foundation and a civil society representative in the NICCA Council, outlined the “12 Promises of NICCA:”

1. Cancer patients, people living with cancer and cancer survivors shall now be recognized as persons with disabilities (PWDs) and will receive similar benefits for PWDs.

2. Cancer patients, people living with cancer and cancer survivors and their immediate family members shall be protected from any form of discrimination at school, work and in communities. Policies and programs for a supportive environment shall be institutionalized.

3. There shall be a Cancer Assistance Fund to provide financial assistance for the screening, diagnosis, specialized treatment and/or rehabilitation of financially challenged cancer patients and people living with cancer.

4. PhilHealth shall expand benefits for cancer to include primary care screening, detection, diagnosis, treatment, palliative and supportive care, survivorship, follow-up care, rehabilitation and end-of-life care for all types and stages of cancer among adults and children.

5. To promote the effective implementation of the NICCA, the National Integrated Cancer Control Council shall be formed, mainly to formulate and recommend policies, plans and programs to control the prevalence of cancer and reduce the distress experienced by cancer patients and their families.

6. The Philippine Cancer Center shall be established as a center of excellence in cancer care, research and development and capacity development.

7. Comprehensive Regional Cancer Centers and Specialty Cancer Centers shall be designated nationwide to provide timely, appropriate, integrated and responsive cancer services. Multidisciplinary teams (MDTs) providing integrated, responsive care is recognized as an essential requirement of high-quality cancer care.

8. The NICCA mandates affordable medicines for cancer and immediate access to essential medicines, innovative medicines and health technologies. Public-private partnerships to provide quality care for patients are an important component of the law.

9. Palliative and pain management services, along with patient navigation and child life services, shall be institutionalized in cancer centers.

10. There will be adequate benefits from the Social Security System (SSS) and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) for employees with cancer.

11. There shall be a more robust population-based and hospital-based Cancer Registry to capture the real burden of cancer in the Philippines and have evidence to support policies and programs. Cancer shall be considered as a notifiable disease.

12. Information sharing and public health education about cancer shall be intensified. These continuing campaigns shall be intensified in schools, workplaces and communities to clarify and correct myths and misconceptions, spotlight behaviors related to prevention and explain the early signs and symptoms, early detection and treatment of cancer.

According to Ms. Auste, seven of the 12 NICCA promises have been fully delivered or met to a large extent:

#1 – PWD status is granted for cancer

patients, people living with cancer, and cancer survivors; however, uptake of benefits is slow.

#3 – Cancer Assistance Fund is provided in 35 sites nationwide.

#5 – NICCA Council is functioning and active.

#6 – The Philippine Cancer Center was established.

#7 – Cancer centers have been designated, facility upgrades are ongoing and some already have functioning MDTs. 

#9 – Hospitals designate Patient Navigators to support accessing the Cancer and Supportive-Palliative Medicines Access Program (CSPMAP). However, palliative care programs and child life services are not yet institutionalized.

#11 – Standardized hospital-based cancer registry is still being finalized. Davao and Cebu have rolled out their population-based cancer registries.

The following areas need redoubled efforts:

#2, #4 and #10 commitments on providing supportive environment for cancer patients, expanding PhilHealth benefits and access to SSS and GSIS benefits have not yet materialized.

• Progress is underway in access to essential medicines, health promotion, and public-private partnerships, but more remains to be done. 

#8 – Access to essential cancer medicines at CSPMAP sites has been challenging. Partnerships are being explored for medicine access.

#12 – DOH cancer awareness campaigns are more visible. I am grateful to Swiss Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Philippine Cancer Society and ICanServe Foundation for working with Novartis in promoting health literacy, early diagnosis and comprehensive care. 

Successful implementation of NICCA relies on a strong primary health care system, well-functioning ILHZs, integrated referral pathways and stakeholder collaboration. Adora Perez echoed this sentiment, “Surviving cancer is a journey that is best shared with people in a similar situation. Family support is foremost, but sharing experiences and emotions with people who go through cancer-related challenges inspires us toward healing and survival.”

Join us in creating a future where every Filipino impacted by cancer has access to the care and support they need to thrive.

*      *      *

Christine Fajardo is chair of the Swiss Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines and communications & engagement head of Novartis.

vuukle comment



  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with