Tax-free cancer medication with CREATE bill

Once enacted into law by President Duterte, the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises bill will result in a more affordable cancer treatment as cancer prevention medication will be exempted from the Value Added Tax, Senator Joel Villanueva said.

Villanueva, chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resource Development, said the enactment of the CREATE bill  could serve as a milestone not only in the country’s fight against the pandemic, but also in the campaign to prevent cancer and other diseases in the country.

“Not only will the proposed CREATE law help our economy bounce back from the raging effects of the pandemic, it will also greatly reduce the cost of cancer medication that has been killing hundreds of Filipinos every day who cannot afford the cost of cancer treatment,” said Villanueva, a co-sponsor of Republic Act 11215, also known as the National Integrated Cancer Control Act.

On Wednesday, Villanueva hailed the congressional ratification of the bicameral conference committee report on the CREATE bill which will lower corporate income tax (CIT) and amend the country’s tax incentives system in a move to attract more foreign investments and create job opportunities in the country.

The measure also included so-called “health prescriptions” on important health resources, specifically on cancer medicines.

Along with the other provisions, the proposed CREATE law will benefit the public health system as it will reduce the high cost of cancer treatment, especially for poor Filipinos who otherwise had no choice but to skip medication due to lack of funds.

Villanueva noted that seven out of 10 Filipino cancer patients ended their medical treatment for cancer due to financial problems.

In 2018, Villanueva pushed for the enactment of the National Integrated Cancer Control Act to allow affordable cancer treatment in the country. The bill aimed to prevent deaths and recurrence from cancer by providing “affordable and accessible” medical treatment.

“If a cure for cancer will be found, the government should not be complaining about the foregone revenues from the sale of chemo drugs. Those revenues are from Filipinos with cancer, most of whom are poor and suffering two-fold just to get the treatment and medicine that are out of their reach,” Villanueva explained.

In essence, he said the cancer-afflicted are paying more when they should be getting aid and medical assistance. This also goes for all the medications for diseases listed as VAT-free in CREATE, like mental illness, tuberculosis and kidney disease.

According to figures from the Department of Health, cancer is a “silent disaster” and is one of epidemic non-communicable diseases that has been the cause of deaths of about 300,000 Filipinos every year, or roughly 800 a day and 33 every hour. In another study, a total of 189 of every 100,000 Filipinos have cancer, while four Filipinos die of the disease every hour or 96 cancer patients every day.

“The data suggest one thing: it is of epidemic proportions. Hindi lang po ito mangilan-ngilan. These deaths run hundreds of thousands. If we can help reduce the costs of cancer treatment, we do not only help poor Filipinos financially, we also give them hope,” Villanueva added.

“And hope is scarce in these trying times. CREATE not only gives hope to our struggling corporations and small businesses, it is also giving hope to millions of Filipinos who will be benefitted by this measure once it is signed into law.”

According to the Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society, the Philippines has the highest prevalence of breast cancer among 197 countries.

The Cancer Coalition of the Philippines reported that around 3,900 children were diagnosed as having cancer every year and that the average survival rate of children diagnosed to have cancer was at 30 percent.

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