Manila, Philippines. Tobacco control advocates rejoice over the recent vindication of the Department of Health (DOH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the case that was filed against them by Philippine Tobacco Institute (PTI). PTI filed a petition to stop DOH and FDA from enforcing any form of regulation or supervision on tobacco products as dictated in the Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act of 9711 or FDA Act of 2009. The Las Piñas court denied PTI’s petition for lack of merit.
“This is indeed victory for the country! It’s high time public welfare is prioritized over the profit of an industry that ultimately kills its consumers,” says Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) General Manager Cora Jimenez.
MMDA’s smoke-free campaign was also challenged in court by a security guard who admitted on national television that he was paid by a tobacco company to file the case. However, the court still issued a restraint against the MMDA.
“Imagine how detrimental it will be for Filipinos if the petition of the tobacco industry was granted. The industry wants a government committee where it sits as a member to regulate tobacco products — this is not only ironic, but worse, puts the whole nation’s health at risk,” remarks Emer Rojas, UN Global Cancer Ambassador and president of New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP), a tobacco control advocacy group whose members are mainly cancer victims that attribute their cancer to smoking.
The case filed by PTI rejects the authority and jurisdiction of FDA to regulate tobacco products. According to the petition, based on Republic Act No. 9211 or Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003, the Inter-Agency Committee on Tobacco (IACT) has exclusive authority to implement RA 9211, which includes regulation. FDA and DOH responded saying that the cigarette falls under their authority because of its impact on health.
“Finally, a victory for health! We eagerly await the actions of DOH and FDA on some violations of the tobacco industry including sale of cigarettes whose packs are without picture warnings,” states Ipat Luna of HealthJustice Philippines, an NGO that aims to bridge public health and law.
Last month, the largest tobacco control network, Framework Convention Alliance, wrote to 300 members of the Philippine government pointing out the problem with the IACT.
“The present position that the tobacco industry holds in [the Inter-Agency Committee on Tobacco] poses an irreconcilable conflict of interest with the effective implementation of tobacco control policies,” FCA Executive Director Laurent Huber states in the letter.