Philippines Department of Health, Civil Service Commission commended for bolstering protection from big tobacco
Bangkok—24 June 2010—The Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) welcomes the Philippines Department of Health (DOH) and Civil Service Commission (CSC) joint circular that protects government personnel from tobacco industry interference in all executive and legislative branches of office. The circular mandates all government agencies to be on guard against influence from the industry that can derail tobacco control efforts.
SEATCA Director Ms Bungon Ritthiphakdee said, “This visionary and landmark move of the Philippine government takes our efforts in protecting the lives and health of developing nations a step further. It signifies the importance of governments being proactive and vigilant in recognizing how insidious the tobacco lobby can be and ensuring tobacco control measures are not diluted, delayed or derailed.
”Philippine CSC head and former Health Secretary Francisco Duque III signed a joint circular with the Department of Health to “protect the bureaucracy against the tobacco industry from influencing and meddling with the creation and implementation of tobacco control policies.
”The memo says that government agencies and employees should avoid unnecessary interactions with cigarette manufacturers and those representing their interests. It only allows transactions where a public official or employee has the duty to regulate, supervise, and control the operations of the industry.Ms Ritthiphakdee said that “the memo contains basic provisions to promote integrity, accountability and transparency. But the reason why the tobacco industry is singled out is that the modes, schemes, and faces of tobacco interference have evolved and has become the single largest obstacle to public health.”
This memo is based on Article 5.3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control(WHO FCTC), to which the Philippines is a party, stipulates that “in setting and implementing their public health policies with respect to tobacco control [they] shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.
”With this DOH-CSC circular, the Philippines “is among the first few Asian countries to effectively implement the FCTC Article 5.3 guidelines,” said Dr Mary Assunta, SEATCA’s senior policy advisor. “The memorandum ensures, among other things, that all government interactions with the tobacco industry, and vice versa, are transparent, while reminding government officials and civil servants to be vigilant of the strategies, tactics and insidious campaigns of the tobacco industry. Since it sells a product that kills half its customers prematurely, the tobacco industry seeks to buy public goodwill. ” For example, in April 2010 the Philippine Health Secretary, Esperanza Cabral, warned government agencies to guard against supposed tobacco industry ‘donations’ to the health sector in the guise of Corporate Social Responsibility.
SEATCA said other ASEAN governments should follow the Philippines’ lead, and be wary of deceptive tobacco industry tactics. Ms. Ritthiphakdee stressed: “Strong anti-tobacco regulations proceed from the premise that the tobacco industry is the problem, and not a stakeholder.”