The administration of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has expressed its “strong commitment” to the 10th Conference of the Parties to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (COP10-WHO FCTC) to further strengthen efforts against tobacco use in the Philippines.
In a speech by Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Hubert Dominic Guevara, delivered by Presidential Communications Office (PCO) Assistant Secretary for Digital Media and Communications Patricia Kayle Martin in Panama, he said the Philippines welcomes the positive strides that parties have made, but also acknowledged the remaining challenges.
Guevara noted that the Philippines has made “notable progress” in implementing WHO FCTC as he highlighted that the Philippine Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) reported a significant decrease in tobacco use from 23.8 percent in 2015 to 19.5 percent in 2021.
“This key achievement is the result of a collective and balance approach, with whole-of-society and whole-of-government efforts in advocating for and implementing effective policies and legislative measures,” Guevara said, referring to the GATS report.
Earlier, 11 former health and education officials have urged the Philippine representatives to the COP10-WHO FCTC to take a stand against e-cigarettes or vapes amid an increase in use among the Filipino youth.
Guevara also said the Marcos administration has strengthened the multi-sectoral national strategy on tobacco regulation along with the government’s tobacco regulation coordinating mechanism in compliance with Articles 5.1 and 5.2a of the FCTC.
He highlighted the enactment of Republic Act No. 11900, or the Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Products Regulation Act, which established a regulatory framework for the importation, manufacture, sale, packaging, distribution, use, and communication of vaporized nicotine and non-nicotine products and other novel tobacco products.
RA 11900 is an addition to the various legislative measures in place such as the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003, the Graphic Health Warning Law, and Excise Tax Laws on novel tobacco products, among others.
“(RA 11900) safeguards minors by restricting the sale, including online trade, distribution and marketing of these products and prohibits tobacco product-related activities within a hundred meters of schools, playgrounds, and facilities frequented by minors,” Guevarra said.
Guevara said the government was able to secure US$3 billion from excise taxes on tobacco and vapor products in 2022 that was utilized for essential government services such the universal healthcare and COVID-19 recovery initiatives and other infrastructure projects such as farm to market roads, schools, hospitals and rural health facilities.
“In adherence to FCTC Article 6, since enacting the relevant law in 2012, the Philippines has consistently increased excise tax rates on cigarettes and tobacco products, making cigarettes less affordable, and consequently decreasing consumption,” he said.
“In addition, the Philippines is currently in the process of enacting legislation entitled ‘Anti-Agricultural Economic Sabotage Act’ that declares smuggling of tobacco as economic sabotage and aims to illicit tobacco trade in the Philippines,” the official added.
Guevara assured the COP10-WHO FCTC that the Marcos administration underscored the importance of “a tailored, multi-sectoral approach to FCTC implementation” as he acknowledged Article 1(d) of the FCTC, varying national contexts and priorities and domestic legislation.
He said the Philippines will continue to engage in constructive dialogues, collaboration and share its experiences with fellow parties of the conference as part of the government’s commitment to the WHO FCTC.—RF, GMA Integrated News