Press Release
September 4, 2006

National Liver Center to rise soonCayetano

Senate health and demography committee chair Senator Pia S. Cayetano announced this morning that initial preparations are already underway for the establishment of the country's very first liver center.

Speaking at a press conference organized by the Philippine Cancer Society at the Jose Fabella Hospital in Manila, Cayetano said the creation of a national liver center is long overdueconsidering that millions of Filipinos are afflicted with liver-related diseases, including Hepatitis B and liver cancer.

"After several meetings and planning sessions with doctors' groups and other stakeholders, we have agreed to implement the initial phase of the project toward the establishment of the country's first liver center," the senator said.

"Initially, the plan is to put up a clinic and a testing laboratory facility that will specialize on liver ailments at the Philippine General Hospital," she added.

The clinic is expected to be operational early next year, while plans are already being mapped out for the construction of the center, also at the UP-PGH compound in Manila. The center is envisioned to manage a live donor liver transplant program and perform surgery, including liver transplant operations.

She said around P50 million is initially required to set up the center. For this purpose, Cayetano will request the senators to allocate P2 million each from their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

"Assuming that we are able to get the cooperation of each senator, then we'll already have P46 million to jumpstart the project beginning next year."

Part of the funding will also come from contributions from private institutions, including the Compañero Rene Cayetano Foundation, which was named after Sen. Pia's father, the late Senator Rene Cayetano.

It may be recalled that the elder Cayetano himself had suffered from chronic Hepatitis B before passing away due to intra-abdominal cancer three years ago.

"Putting up the country's first liver center has been one of the visions of the Compañero Rene Cayetano Foundation, both in memory of my father and as our family's contribution to nationwide efforts to battle diseases of the liver."

At the same press conference, Health secretary Francisco Duque III acknowledged Cayetano's contributions to make vaccination against the Hepatitis B virus (HBV) mandatory for all newborns and to increase liver disease awareness through legislation.

Cayetano is author and sponsor of Senate Bill No.2012, which makes basic immunization services against Hepatitis B mandatory for infants within 24 hours from birth. She also authored Senate Bill 2027 which declares the month of February of each year as "Liver cancer and Hepatitis B awareness month."

Duque also credited the senator for lobbying hard for the inclusion of a social provision in RA 9334, also known as the "Sin Tax Law" (An act increasing tax rates imposed on alcohol and tobacco products). The provision required that 2.5% of incremental revenues from sin taxes be remitted directly to PhilHealth, and another 2.5% be credited to the account of the DOH as a trust fund for its disease prevention program.

It was also Cayetano who lobbied for the insertion of a provision in RA 9337 (E-VAT Law), which required that 10% of the share of local government units from incremental revenues from the EVAT be used for the health insurance of indigents under the national health insurance program.

"We already have specialty hospitals on heart, lung and kidney ailments, but we don't have one yet that specializes on liver diseases. The liver is one of the body's most vital organs, yet it also appears to be one of the most neglected among us Filipinos," Cayetano said.

She noted that liver ailments have become a serious health concern, particularly Hepatitis B which is spreading at an alarming rate, although most Filipinos are unaware or choose not to take precautions.

Citing reports from the World Health Organization, she said about six of every ten Filipinos have at one point been exposed to the Hepatitis B virus, while one-tenth of the population are active carriers.

"This means that around eight million Filipinos are active carriers who are unwittingly spreading the virus to other people."

On the other hand, liver cancer is ranked as the second most common cancer among Filipino males, seventh for Filipino females and fourth for both sexes. "Incidentally, studies show that the primary cause of liver cancer itself is also infection from the Hepatitis B virus (HBV)."

She lauded the health department's efforts to intensify the mass vaccination of infants against the HBV, since this is the most effective way to reduce the prevalence of major liver ailments.

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