New law shows gov’t serious in battle vs. cancer: solon

MANILA — The signing of the National Integrated Cancer Act shows that the government is taking serious steps to improve cancer care in the country and gives hope to cancer patients, especially the poor, in their battle against the disease, a lawmaker at the House of Representatives said Wednesday.

In a statement, Antipolo City Rep. Cristina Roa-Puno said the enactment of Republic Act 11215 spells the difference between life and death for many Filipinos struggling in their battle against cancer.

“This is a step in the right direction in addressing gaps in cancer care in the country. Because of this law, cancer patients will now have a better chance of defeating this terrible disease,” she said.

“Ngayong at mayroon nang National Integrated Cancer Act, makakaasa po ang ating mga kababayan na may cancer na kakampi nila ang pamahalaan sa kanilang laban upang mabuhay (Now that we have a National Integrated Cancer Act, Filipinos with cancer can depend on the government as their partner in their fight for life),” Roa-Puno said.

Roa-Puno, the principal author and sponsor measure at the House, said the enactment of RA 11215 could not have come at a more opportune time given the high incidence rate and high mortality rate of the disease in the country.

According to data culled by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), cancer has been the third highest cause of mortality among Filipinos since 2004.

Since 2012, 189 out of every 100,000 Filipinos have been afflicted by the “Big C.”

Roa-Puno noted that there are 11 new cases of cancer recorded in the country everyday while cancer claims the lives of seven adults and eight children every hour, according to the Cancer Coalition of the Philippines.

She pointed out that most patients succumb to the disease because they cannot afford cancer treatment.

“The landmark law will integrate policies and programs for the prevention, detection, correct diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. It will also cover palliative care, pain management, and survivorship or end of life,” she said.

“The new law will also alleviate the financial burden of cancer patients and their loved ones,” she added.

RA 11215, which institutionalizes a national integrated cancer control program, was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte last February 14 but was released by Malacañang only on Tuesday.

The law mandates the Department of Health to ensure there is sufficient and affordable supply of medicines for cancer patients.

Under the law, PhilHealth shall also expand its benefit packages to include screening, detection, diagnosis, treatment assistance, supportive care, survivorship follow-up care and rehabilitation, and end of-life-care, for all types and stages of cancer in both adults and children.

The law also calls for the creation of a cancer registry and cancer centers throughout the country, to aid in government efforts to extend financial and other forms of assistance to cash-strapped cancer patients as well as to provide funds for cancer research.

At the same time, RA 11215 provides additional rights and privileges to cancer patients and survivors.

Cancer-related absences from work of member employees and voluntary members shall be now be covered and compensated by the sickness benefits of the Social Security System (SSS) and the disability benefits of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).

Persons living with cancer and cancer survivors shall also be considered as persons with disabilities (PWDs) and be accorded the same rights and privileges as PWDs.

The measure also mandates the establishment of the Philippine Cancer Center under the control and supervision of the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital.

Regional cancer centers shall also be established nationwide. Jose Cielito Reganit/