Deputy Speaker and Las Piñas Rep. Camille Villar, on Friday urged for the passage of a bill seeking the institutionalization of a PHP10-billion fund to support needy Filipino families in the battle against cancer.

In pushing House Bill 5686, or the Cancer Medicine Treatment Fund for Filipinos, the House leader recognized that cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the Philippines, and noted that fighting the dreaded disease can drain a Filipino families’ finances, especially for indigents and underprivileged.

“Considering that one of the goals of the national economy is a more equitable distribution of opportunities and raising the quality of life for all, especially the underprivileged, it is high time that those who are less in life be given the lifeline to fight cancer despite their lack of resources,” Villar said in a statement.

For instance, chemotherapy for cancer patients may cost about PHP100,000 per session. The cost of treatment by radiation, or even examination by MRI or magnetic resonance imaging, is burdensome even to middle-income patients, and often beyond the reach of the poor, she said.

She also pointed out that the incidence and mortality rate of cancer in the Philippines has been increasing in the past decades, with 189 of every 100,000 are affected by cancer, according to latest record from the Health Department. Also, four Filipinos die of cancer every hour, or 96 patients every day.

“This trend is expected to continue if organized and sustained specialized care and preventive measures against cancer are not initiated,” Villar said.

“This is why cancer has gained a reputation as the disease for the rich. The painful truth is that it can afflict anybody, regardless of economic status,” she added.

Under HB 5686, a cancer treatment program shall be established and administered by Philhealth through its accredited government hospitals in each congressional district. The assistance shall be limited to indigent and underprivileged patients identified by state health insurer, in coordination with the Departments of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Health (DOH) and Interior and Local Government (DILG).

A sum of PHP10 billion shall be appropriated for the implementation of the program. The national government shall subsequently include in the budget of the DOH in the General Appropriations Act such amount as may be necessary to carry out the objectives of the measure.

Under the 2022 spending plan, a total of PHP529.2 million has been allocated for the cancer assistance fund. (PNA)