Philippines: Supreme Court affirms FDA jurisdiction over cigarettes, tobacco products

12 June 2022

By: Jon Viktor D. Cabuenas, GMA News

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in regulating cigarettes and tobacco products in the Philippines following protests from the industry.

An SC decision on July 13, 2021 found that the industry fell under the FDA’s authority given the country’s commitments to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

“There is no overlap of functions, as it is clear that petitioners have technical authority over matters of public health,” the decision said.

“At any rate, the Implementing Rules explicitly state that the rules and regulations and other issuances to be promulgated by the Food and Drug Administration will refer to policy areas that are not covered by specialized agencies and special laws,” it added.

The decision comes as the FDA, along with the Department of Health (DOH), petitioned to clarify its regulatory oversight over the industry.

A copy of relevant sections of the decision was released to reporters by Senator Pia Cayetano, who also served as intervenor in the case.

The Philippine Tobacco Institute Inc. served as respondent, representing major transnational tobacco firms in the country.

The respondents had argued that they should be principally regulated by the Inter-Agency Committee on Tobacco (IAC-Tobacco) as provided for by the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003.

“This not only leads to an absurd result, but it is also contrary to law and our international obligations,” the SC decision read, noting that the respondents were members of the IAC-Tobacco.

For her part, Cayetano welcomed the decision as a “win” for the country.

“The win is for the Filipino people and will benefit future generations. It may have taken 13 years, but it’s these victories that remind me to keep fighting the good fight. It’s what makes my job worthwhile,” she said in a statement.

“It is my hope that the incoming administration will continue to strengthen our health systems, and ensure that all harmful and potentially harmful products that should fall under the ambit of FDA’s authority are duly regulated to safeguard public health,” she added.