From zero funding in the proposed 2023 national budget, the House of Representatives has boosted to P1.56 billion the line-item funding for two cancer funds in this year’s General Appropriations Act, Batangas Rep. Ralph Recto on Sunday said.
“This is the result of a multipartisan, bicameral push,” he said in a statement.
Lodged under the budget of the Department of Health, about P1.054 billion would fund cancer prevention, detection, treatment and care pursuant to Republic Act 11215 or the National Integrated Cancer Control Act, the Batangas lawmaker said.
Specifically, it would fund the “procurement and delivery of cancer, supportive care and palliative care medicines covering the eight treatable cancer types” as stipulated by a special provision in the 2023 GAA, the former senator added.
On top of this is the P500 million for cancer assistance fund for cancer prevention, detection, treatment, diagnostics, and care for eight priority cancer types.
Recto, however, said the assistance pool cancer patients can tap is bigger than the two programs’ combined P1.56 billion.
First, there is a P32.6-billion “medical assistance to indigent and financially incapacitated patients” in the 2023 GAA.
Up from P21.3 billion in 2022, the fund would be administered by the Health department.
The validity of 2022 cancer assistance program’s P529.2-million appropriation has been extended until the end of 2023 pursuant to a joint DOH-Department of Budget and Management memorandum.
The deputy speaker lauded the heads of the DOH and DBM for moving the expiry dates on the fund “because money for cancer fight should not be perishable.”
He supported the appeal of DOH officer in charge Maria Rosario Vergeire to restore the line-item appropriations for the two programs.
Recto stressed that “restoring the cancer fund in the national budget is one doctor’s order we cannot ignore.”
“The cancer fund is not a tumor that must be excised from the budget. It is a treatment tool which, on the contrary, must be boosted,” he said.
Cancer killed almost 60,000 Filipinos in 2021, or one every nine minutes.
“But seven in 10 cancer patients drop out of treatment regimen for lack of funds. Filipino families are one cancer diagnosis away from bankruptcy,” Recto lamented.
He admitted that state funds “to fight cancer are not enough, and way, way below the ideal.”
To invoke a budget deficit as an excuse to cut cancer funds from government spending is cruel, he said.