SEATCA calls out ironic tobacco industry donation of respirators to Philippines’ Department of Health

(14 June 2021, Bangkok) SEATCA calls out the fake charity that the tobacco industry displayed in the Philippines when it donated respirators at the height of the pandemic.

The Department of Health received about 400 respirators from the Temasek Foundation, 30 of which were from a private company with ties to the tobacco industry. Pursuant to the Joint Memorandum Circular 2010-01 of the Department of Health and the Civil Service Commission which protects the bureaucracy from tobacco industry interference, the DOH did not accept these few donated respirators. The respirators were instead received by 10 private hospitals as requested by the donor.

The rest of the machines donated by the Temasek Foundation and the Embassy of Singapore were distributed to more than 100 public and private hospitals in the country.

As nations around the world struggle to address the pandemic, this fake corporate social responsibility (CSR) of the industry is done in bad taste. The tobacco industry is whitewashing its harmful practices by presenting itself as an ally of the COVID-19 response. While claiming to help governments curb the pandemic, the industry is still selling its products. Evidence clearly shows that smoking increases the risk of severe COVID-19 infections.

“It is ironic that the tobacco industry donates respirators during the pandemic when they continue to sell their products which cause respiratory diseases that lead to premature death for their customers. COVID-19 is a respiratory problem which can be exacerbated by smoking. Tobacco products should not be sold during the pandemic,” explained Mary Assunta, Senior Policy Advisor of SEATCA.

SEATCA released a report documenting how the tobacco industry uses CSR to divert attention away from the harmful nature of its business. What the industry spends on its so-called CSR activities is miniscule compared to the profits they gain from selling addictive and harmful tobacco products. CSR activities conducted during the COVID-19 response is a clever tactic to get closer access to top level policymakers and enforcement officials.

To genuinely build a healthier society post-pandemic, we need to go tobacco-free. We have to protect people from tobacco use, prevent diseases and deaths, and work towards tobacco endgame. A harmful and manipulative industry that is associated with more than 100,000 deaths in the Philippines and 8 million deaths a year globally, has no place in a sustainable and healthy society.

Relevant Links:

Contact Information:

Val Bugnot, Media and Communications Officer, SEATCA
Email: val@seatca.org 

About SEATCA

SEATCA is a multi-sectoral non-governmental alliance promoting health and saving lives by assisting ASEAN countries to accelerate and effectively implement the tobacco control measures contained in the WHO FCTC. Acknowledged by governments, academic institutions, and civil society for its advancement of tobacco control in Southeast Asia, the WHO bestowed on SEATCA the World No Tobacco Day Award in 2004 and the WHO Director-General’s Special Recognition Award in 2014.

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