MANILA, June 25, 2010 (AFP) - The Philippines said Friday it is setting up a nationwide organ donor register in a bid to stop the practice of its poor selling their kidneys to make ends meet.
Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral said she hoped the project would help provide donor organs for the estimated 9,000 Filipinos who suffer kidney failure every year.
"We seek not only to improve an important service for many patients... but also to assure that the illegal traffic of organs that has victimised many of our countrymen for many years until 2008 will not be repeated," she added.
Over the past decade the Philippines has gained an international reputation as a hub for the illegal traffic in human organs from living donors, with some hospitals catering for wealthy foreign patients requiring kidney transplants.
In some poor communities many of the men carry surgical scars on one side of their torsos, after selling a kidney for as little as 3,000 dollars.
In 2008 the government banned the traffic in human organs involving living donors who are not related to the transplant patients, right after signing two international conventions on organ trafficking and transplant tourism.
Cabral said in a statement that the latest move complements the ban by increasing the number of transplants from dead donors, which she said has proven to be effective in other countries.
"Hopefully, with this programme, the international medical community will once again recognise that our country is indeed serious in curtailing illegal organ donation," she added.