20 Nov 2010
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Civil society denounces Philippine delegation to international health treaty
REFERENCES: Dr. Maricar Limpin +63917-6283502 or Ms. Joy Alampay, Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance +63917-5326749
19 November 2010 – Punta del Este, Uruguay: Civil society representatives from over 100 countries yesterday singled out the Philippine delegation to the fourth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP-4) to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) and gave it a shameful Dirty Ashtray award for promoting tobacco industry interests through the use of international trade laws.
According to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance, Philippines (FCAP), the COP-4 delegation of the Philippines served as the tobacco industry’s mouthpiece in criticizing the draft guidelines on regulating the contents of tobacco products and requiring disclosure of tobacco products contents.
"Despite existing scientific evidence and international experience, the delegation decided to protect the interests of tobacco manufacturers, whose sole objective is to profit from the harms on the people’s health caused by tobacco use," said Dr. Maricar Limpin, FCAP executive director.
Limpin denounced the leadership of the Department of Health (DOH) for its failure to act on its mandate to protect the health interests of the Filipinos in an international health treaty, and worse, allowed the tobacco industry to dictate and influence the government position in the ongoing COP-4.
“This shameful Dirty Ashtray Award should send a strong message to the present administration, particularly to Health Secretary Enrique Ona who should be held responsible for the disgrace this award has caused the country amidst successful tobacco control efforts done by the previous administrations of President Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Administration,” said Limpin.
Observing from Uruguay, Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo, a Philippine public health advocate, reported that Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corporation (PMFTC), the Philippine Aromatic Tobacco Development Association, Inc. (PATDA), and the very newly formed Philippine Tobacco Growers Association Inc (PTGA) have engaged in a well-financed initiative to mislead the government and the public by promoting misinformation about the proposed draft Guidelines of the FCTC’s Articles 9 and 10.
“They falsely claimed that the Guidelines include a “ban on all kinds of ingredients in the manufacture of cigarettes” and that implementing the Guidelines would result in a “de facto ban on American blended cigarettes”, Dorotheo said.
The truth, Dorotheo explains, is that the draft guidelines recommend that Parties “prohibit or restrict” ingredients, such as candy or fruit flavours, that help make tobacco products attractive and encourage their use, especially among young people.
Another public health group, the New Voice Association of the Philippines (NVAP) protested the unfair composition of the government delegation headed by Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Usec. Zenaida Maglaya. The delegation is also composed of two other DTI representatives and one representative each from the Department of Agriculture, Department of Health (DOH), and the UP College of Law.
"Considering that the WHO FCTC is a public health treaty, it is inexcusable that the public health sector is severely underrepresented at this important conference." said Emer Rojas, a cancer victim and president of NVAP. Rojas further noted that although not present in Uruguay, National Tobacco Administration (NTA) administrator Edgardo Zaragoza was also listed on the official COP-4 delegation, in violation of Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC. "Why is it that ! the voice of tobacco victims like us is being unfairly suppressed, while the rich and influential tobacco industry is over-represented?" he lamented.
DOH Usec. Alexander Padilla, who headed the Philippine delegation to previous COPs of the WHO FCTC, was disappointed by the developments in Uruguay. "The Dirty Ashtray Award is a black mark on the Aquino administration’s standing in the international public health community."
Media contact: Joy F. Alampay
Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance
Thakolsuk Apartment Room 2B,115 Thoddamri Rd., Nakornchaisri, Dusit
Bangkok 10300, Thailand
TeleFax: +662 241 0082(Bangkok)