MANILA, Philippines—A non-government health group has taken the Tanauan City, Batangas, government, to task for naming one of its streets after the US cigarette brand Philip Morris, which it described as a “product that has consistently contributed to 10 Filipino deaths a day.”
The Quezon City-based Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines (FCAP) also threatened to sue Tanauan City Mayor Sonia Torres-Aquino and the members of the Sangguniang Bayan for naming the street Philip Morris.
In a statement, FCAP executive director Maricar Limpin said on Tuesday that “putting up a street sign bearing the name of a cigarette brand is not only a violation of an existing law, but is utterly unmindful and insensitive to the health of Tanauan folk.”
“We strongly urge the Tanauan City government to refrain from carrying out the mandate of the Sangguniang Bayan resolution naming one of its streets as Philip Morris and putting up that street sign bearing the name Philip Morris,” Limpin said.
To do so “would be a blatant violation of Republic Act no. 9211 (otherwise known as the “Tobacco Regulation Act of 2007”) and a betrayal of the trust reposed on you by your constituents.”
“Extolling and honoring Philip Morris, a manufacturer and purveyor of a deathly product through a street sign not only runs contrary to law, but to public duty and trust,” according to Limpin.
Early this month, the Tanauan City council passed a resolution naming a road in Barangay Bantay Bata as Philip Morris Street as a way of expressing its appreciation for the tobacco company’s “support to the town.”
Tanauan City, Batangas, hosts Philip Morris International’s only production facility in the country.
FCAP assailed Philip Morris, saying “In the guise of doing philanthropic activities under its so-called corporate social responsibility, the company has succeeded in being a leader of an industry that is responsible for more than five million deaths each year.”
“Whatever support extended by Philip Morris to Tanauan City directly contradicts the primary objective of the corporation – to sell more cigarettes and peddle death in the process,” noted Limpin.
The Makati City office of Philip Morris has yet to comment on FCAP’s allegations.
According to FCAP, Tanauan City had violated provisions of RA 9211 for coming up with the resolution. “Section 22 of RA 9211 prohibits all forms of outdoor advertising. A street sign falls under the category of advertising, especially outdoor advertising because it is a visual message or a sign which gives publicity by words or images about a particular product, and in this case Philip Morris,” the group said.
Section 4 of the same law “defines advertisement as ‘any visual or audible message disseminated to the public about a particular product that promotes and gives publicity by words, designs, images or any other means through broadcast, electronic, print or whatsoever form of mass media, including outdoor advertisements, but not limited to signs and billboards.’”
“If found guilty of violating (RA 9211), the guilty party on the first offense will be asked to pay a fine of not more than P100,000 or imprisonment of not more than one year, or both, at the discretion of the court. A second offense carries a fine of P200,000 or imprisonment of not more than two years, or both, while on its third offense, the guilty party faces a fine of not more than P400,000 or three year-imprisonment or both. In case of a business entity, the business permits and licenses of the erring establishment shall be revoked,” FCAP warned.
FCAP, a signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, has also referred the matter to both the Department of Health and the Department of Trade and Industry.
Both DOH and DTI are members of the Inter-Agency Committee on Tobacco that is mandated by the government to implement the provisions of RA 9211.