MANILA – The government has committed to further strengthen efforts against tobacco use during the 10th Conference of the Parties to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (COP10-WHO FCTC) held Feb. 5 to 10 in Panama.
In a speech by Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Hubert Dominic Guevara, delivered by Presidential Communications Office Assistant Secretary for Digital Media and Communications Patricia Kayle Martin, he said the Philippines welcomes the positive strides that parties have made, but also acknowledged the remaining challenges.
Guevara said the Philippines already made notable progress in implementing WHO FCTC, noting that the Philippine Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) showed that tobacco use fell 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,” he said.
Guevara said the Marcos administration 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.
“Each Party shall develop, implement, periodically update and review comprehensive multisectoral national tobacco control strategies, plans and programmes in accordance with this Convention and the protocols to which it is a Party,” stated Article 5.1.
According to Article 5.2a, “each Party shall, in accordance with its capabilities: establish or reinforce and finance a national coordinating mechanism or focal points for tobacco control.”
Guevara noted that Republic Act (RA) 11900, or the Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Products Regulation Act, 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.
“This new law 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,” Guevara said.
RA 11900 is an addition to other legislative measures in place, such as the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003, Graphic Health Warning Law, and Excise Tax Laws on novel tobacco products.
Guevara said the government also secured USD3 billion from excise taxes on tobacco and vapor products in 2022.
The amount was used 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 [a] legislation titled Anti-Agricultural Economic Sabotage Act that declares smuggling of tobacco as economic sabotage and aims to illicit tobacco trade in the Philippines,” he added.
Guevara assured that the Philippines will continue to engage constructive dialogues, collaboration and share its experiences with fellow Parties of the Conference to overcome various challenges in realizing the aims of the Convention. (PNA)