Is it necessary to build a Cancer Center in PH?

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) on Thursday, Feb. 2, approved the establishment of a 6-billion-worth cancer hospital in Manila. But this has prompted some to ask: Is the establishment of a Cancer Center necessary?

Cancer remains a national health priority, according to the Department of Health. Backing this statement, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) bared that “neoplasm, commonly known as cancer,” was the third leading cause of death in the Philippines in 2022, accounting for 20,408 recorded cases from January to May.

In a “Saturday News Forum” held in Quezon City on Saturday, Feb. 4, University of the Philippines – Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) Special Assistant to the Director Dr. Jose Rafael Marfori stressed the need of building a specialized cancer hospital in the Philippines.

“Cancer is a disease. We want to help contribute to the DOH effort and national effort. Cancer does not choose its victims. We have to find ways that the whole population can access this care," Marfori said.

Another reason for its importance, according to Marfori, is that treating cancer is “resource intensive,” requiring significant system resources, especially in manpower and technology.

In the same forum, NEDA Undersecretary Rosemarie Edillon highlighted that specialty hospitals such as this do not only conduct treatments but also focus on research.

“What we want is for it to be a center of studies as well,” said Edillon.

Philippine General Hospital (Photo from UP)

The Cancer Center will be built within the UP-PGH campus in Manila. With an area of 3,000 square meters, the national government targets it to be 15-to-20-floor high and have at least 300 beds, 350 parking spaces, 1,000 square meters of commercial space, as well as an area for three linear accelerator bunkers.

This specific initiative was the first public-private partnership project approved by the NEDA board under President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos’ administration. Noting its relevance, Edillon said they are hoping that this will be the “first of many.”

“usto natin regional specialty hospitals. Para ang mga kababayan natin na nasa malayong probinsya ay 'di kailangan pumunta all the way sa Manila (We also want to build regional specialty hospitals. So that those in distant provinces do not need to go all the way to Manila),” the expert furthered.