Apart from medicines for diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol, Senator Sonny Angara will also study the possibility of exempting from the 12-percent value-added tax (VAT) all cancer medications and other available maintenance medicines in the market.

Angara is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means that deliberated and made possible the VAT exemption on medicines for diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law. The implementation of the VAT exemption started last January 1.

The seasoned legislator said the original proposal among senators was to exempt all maintenance medicines from VAT, but the Department of Health (DOH) suggested that the exemption be extended first to medicines for diabetes, hypertension and heart ailments due to high cholesterol – the three leading causes of death among Filipinos.

“Kung successful naman ang implementation nito, pwede po nating pag-aralan na isunod ang mga gamot sa cancer, uric acid at iba pang karamdaman,” the veteran lawmaker said.

The senator added he was ready to facilitate the passage in the Senate of any proposal from the House of Representatives to remove the VAT on other maintenance medicines and medications for cancer patients.

Under the Constitution, all tax measures must emanate from the lower chamber. This means that the Senate cannot pass a tax measure unless the House passes its own version.

He said the VAT exemption would complement Senate Bill 1570 or the proposed Cancer Control Act, which he vigorously pushed to help government combat cancer, which is now one of the leading causes of death in the country and has led to considerable financial hardship for patients and their families.

“Cancer is now one of the leading causes of death in the country and has led to considerable financial hardship for patients and their families.”

In sponsoring the measure in September last year, Angara said it was high time the government take cancer as seriously as other health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and pneumonia.

“We are aware of the fear brought about by cancer. While we talk openly about other serious illnesses like hypertension, diabetes or pneumonia, cancer seems to be always discussed in hushed tones,” he lamented.

Angara stressed the time has come for the government to confront such fears, “if only to save more Filipino lives.”

“The time has come for the government to confront the fear brought about by cancer if only to save more Filipino lives.”

He said the proposed Cancer Control Act provides a holistic and comprehensive policy that would tackle cancer and make the treatment of the killer disease more accessible and affordable for all Filipinos.

According to the 2016 Philippine Statistics Authority data, neoplasms or tumors–which are commonly associated with cancer–are the second leading cause of death for Filipinos, next only to heart ailments.

A study conducted by the University of the Philippines Institute of Human Genetics showed that 189 of every 100,000 Filipinos are afflicted with cancer while 96 cancer patients die every day.

Angara also lamented the staggering cost of cancer diagnosis and treatment, which could drive even high income families to sudden financial struggle.

“Kaya nga may nagsasabi na ang cancer daw ay ‘sakit ng mayaman.’ Sila lang kasi ang may kayang magpagamot nito,” he pointed out.

Based on the information gathered by the Cancer Coalition Philippines, a breast ultrasound–which is but one of many tests for breast cancer–could range from P600 to as high as P3,000 depending on the hospital. A colonoscopy could cost from P1,500 to around P14,000 exclusive of professional fees.

“In simple words, cancer pushes Filipino families deeper into poverty. The associated costs of screening and treatment are catastrophic. The economic burden imposed is overwhelming,” Angara concluded.



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