Health advocates push P542M budget for cancer control

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    STAKEHOLDERS from the health sector representing the government, legislature, patient groups and health care industry asked Congress to ensure adequate funding for the implementation of the Universal Health Care (UHC) and National Integrated Cancer Control Acts (NICCA) during a recent virtual town hall discussion.

    “We cannot wait until this pandemic is completely over in order to revive the economy. With public health and the economy in the balance, the way forward is for government to utilize the next year’s budget to reform the country’s health care system,” said professor Dindo Manhit, president of Stratbase ADR Institute (ADRi).

    The online forum was organized by the ADRi, Citizen Watch Philippines, and Cancer Coalition of the Philippines.

    Dr. Clarito U. Cairo Jr., program manager of the National Integrated Cancer Control of the Department of Health, said the 2021 budget proposed for cancer assistance under the NICCA is P542,202,005.40.

    The proposed budget for NICCA will fund the Expanded Breast Cancer Medicines Access Program (P321 million), Expanded Childhood Cancer Medicines Access Program (P80 million), Early Cervical Cancer Detection Access Program Using HPV DNA Test (P28 million), and Gynecologic Cancer Medicines Access Program (P20 million).

    It will also fund the Early Colorectal Cancer Detection Access Program (P16.5 million), Medicines Access Program for Blood Cancers (P49.9 million), Thyroid Cancer Treatment and Surveillance Access Program (P1.1 million), and Palliative and Hospice Care Medicines Access Program (P25 million).

    “If you take the case of a breast cancer patient with HER2-positive subtype which usually require 18 cycles of chemotherapy costing around P500,000, the proposed budget will only treat a little over 1,000 patients. Based on the WHO-International Agency for Research on Cancer, in 2018, the Philippines had recorded 24,798 new breast cancer cases,” said Cairo.

    Cairo said that based on DOH 2018 data, “there are 110,000 new cases diagnosed yearly and the death toll from cancer for both adults and children is about 66,000 Filipinos per year. Increasing the budget for cancer assistance will decrease the mortality especially for the poor patients.”

    Paul Perez, president of Cancer Coalition of the Philippines, a nationwide alliance of cancer stakeholders, urged the DBM and Congress to ensure that adequate funds are allocated for cancer control as required under Section 32 of the NICC law which states that the amount should be in the General Appropriations Act.

    “Having this budget line item will secure that cancer funds will be available, as not allocating one may bring about bigger health issues, which will put more pressure on the already overstretched health system,” said Perez.

     

    DICT budget for 2021 to hasten digital transformation: Honasan

    THE eight-fold increase in the proposed 2021 budget for the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) seeks to hasten the country’s digital transformation to cope with the adverse effects of the pandemic, according to Information Secretary Gregorio Honasan.

    From the 2020 budget of a little over P6 billion, the proposed DICT budget for 2021 is being raised to P46.45 billion, of which P13.5 billion would go to digital infrastructure, which include laying down the national fiber optic cable.

    “The new normal requires work from home arrangements in the labor sector and the shift to online learning for students in the education sector. For the people used to face-to-face interaction, the measures were nothing short of extreme in order to contain the virus,” Honasan said.

    Honasan acknowledged the sudden increase in demand for digital access, but said the government has to provide the environment to enable private telecommunications firms to meet new demands for digital connections

    The DICT has to pursue the task to lead the digital transformation in an environment which is too lopsided by all standards: first, internet penetration, per survey by the National ICT Household Survey partnership with Philippine Statistical and Research Institute, was 17.7%, while TV’s stood at 82.7% in 2019, Honasan said.

    The national estimate for individuals using a cellphone is 78.7%, while for people using the internet, the percentage is 43%, Honasan added.

    In contrast, a large percentage of individuals, or 90.9% watch TV and only 21.2% of the people have access to government websites on the internet.

    “Digital access is way behind than access to traditional media,” Honasan said.

    The DICT action plan includes raising bandwidth, strengthening resilience and security of networks, and managing congestion and connecting vital services and ensuring the continuity of public services to safeguard the people’s welfare.

    It also includes support for the most impacted businesses and communities, promotion of trust, security, and safety online; and leveraging the power of mobile big data.

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