Press Release
February 21, 2024

Sen. Pia Cayetano statements Senate Blue Ribbon hearing on Dirty Ashtray

Senate Blue Ribbon hearing on Dirty Ashtray Transcript
Question and Answer (part 1)

I have a number of questions, but I'll hold it for later because I'd like to hear the others. But I was talking to my staff so I just wanna be sure I heard you right. So you said towards the end, which is not part of your speech, that you spoke to all the members and your parting message is, let's stop illicit trade of tobacco?


I'll give you a chance to elaborate on that because it kind of strikes me the wrong way if your only takeaway after all this is the illicit trade of tobacco, which I understand to be in connection with the smuggling of tobacco. But when you now added the access of minors, then I understand where it's coming from. So maybe later you can elaborate on that because I'd like to hear more about that.

Let me recognize the presence of Sen. Tolentino, our former Chairperson of the Committee on Blue Ribbon. Sir, do you have any statements?


So I'll call on now DFA, USec. Charles Jose, Office of the Undersecretary for Multilateral Affairs and International Economic Relations. Are you the one speaking on behalf of DFA? Sorry, can I understand, either of you can answer. Ano ba, do you have co-heads, or are you the sole head, because I saw in one document, there's co-heads or what, how does it work?


Usec. Jose, we had asked for your position papers to be submitted earlier. We did not get anything from your office. We have always had full cooperation from DFA because we have other issues, which the Blue Ribbon Secretariat is handling, and DFA has been very cooperative. Pero with this issue, ngayon ko lang naririnig yang statement niyo, so nagkakandarapa ako copying your statements so that I can make logical and cohesive... I can frame my thoughts to ask you questions.


Well, if it's last night, then probably ngayong umaga pa lang, and I don't have anything. At least, it would have been nice if, at the very least, Sec. Guevara, at least I could follow and make notes. So ngayon, I will have you repeat some of your statements because I am not capable of, hindi ako natuto mag-stenography nung ako ay nag-aaral. So may I just request next time for all the resource persons to just cooperate with us? May I just ask you to repeat that line towards the latter part of your statement where you said something like, something about sorry to disappoint some groups, but there is a lack of understanding on the realities of... Can you just repeat that statement?


This advocacy, while meritorious, understandably falls short in understanding the more complex and nuance realities underlying Philippine legislation. I just got this now so I will digest this a little bit and get back to you later. Thank you.

Before I call on [DOH], because I don't wanna lose my train of thought. You mentioned... I do not see it in your written speech so I do not know if you made your own changes on the spot, but in my notes, you said something about a balanced position with health and the livelihood of the farmers. May I know from the Department of Agriculture... Is the Department of Agriculture here? Wala. O sige, I defer to you, Atty. Guevara if you'd like to answer this, or NTA. Does anybody debate the data that the poorest sector in our society are the farmers and the fisherfolks? They are the poorest, and as far as I know, their plight has not been in any way, their life has not improved. Are the tobacco farmers better off because of all these so-called interventions and support that I am hearing from you with this balanced approach? Can any of you present data to me that shows that this balanced approach that you keep on, dalawa pa lang ang speaker, and I keep hearing balanced approach, okay. Anong napala ng ating magigiting na farmers, tobacco farmers specifically, dito sa balanced approach? Who would like to answer that question?

Because you stand in the way of the progress of health because of the balanced approach, that's basically what you are saying. Yun ang nuances na sinasabi niyo, Usec. Charles. The nuance is that we cannot fully support health programs because we have to balance the livelihood of farmers. So ikinabuti ba nila?


I am very familiar with that [Vape] law because I was the only person who actively fought against that law, and Sen. Joel also was very vocal in arguing against some provisions. There was no discussion on what that balanced policy means. So for the record, you can check, there's no discussion on what balanced policy means. So I cannot glean anything from that when you say that it is referred to in that law, just for your information, because I was involved...

So NTA, would you like to tell me, just to keep it short, I know you are all busy, I do not intend to keep you here all day. Are the Filipino tobacco farmers better off than other farmers dahil sa binibigay na suporta na paulit-ulit kong naririnig? Mas maganda ba ang kalagayan ng ating Filipino tobacco farmers? And please do not tell me how much ang nabigay. Tell me does the data show na hindi na sila impoverished, hindi na sila naghihirap, hindi na sila minimum wage.

Mamaya ka pa. If you don't wanna answer that, I don't need you to answer that... It's up to you, you can say something or you don't have to. It's your call. Would you like me to call on you later? Okay so ang next natin is DOH.


Thank you very much for that. Just to complete the DOH family, let's go to Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Samuel Zacate, the Director General.


Next would be the Department of Trade and Industry, USec. Ana Sanches.


I'll revert to you, DTI, I am just checking on something. Let's now go to the National Tobacco Administration. Before you proceed with your statement, can you please tell us who are the members of the NTA? Under the law, who makes up the NTA?

--- Sino tinatanong niyo? Sino tinatanong niyo? Sino nga? Ako? Yung kasamahan mo? So ang tanong mo is, ano exactly? Kasi baka magustuhan ko yung tanong mo, ako magtatanong para sayo. Ano yung gitna? [Balanced policy] or? Pakiulit na lang.

Anong side? I want to understand your statement kaya kita tinatanong.


That's your statement, ma'am. So you should be able to explain it to me. Ano nga yung isang banda? So ang panawagan mo ay kung tayo ay sa gitna o saan? Ano yung isang banda?

[NTA: Magsama-sama po tayo.] Hindi, hindi yan ang sinasabi mo, eh.


So kung hindi ka clear sa pinapanawagan... Do you want to say something?


Huwag mo na akong basahan. Sabihan mo na lang ako kung ano ang panawagan mo.

[NTA: Retracted ko na po ang statement] So binabawi mo na yun? Hindi na yun ang panawagan mo? Ano na yung panawagan mo?


Kaya ko kasi tinanong kung ano ang panawagan mo, kasi yung question ko, and again, I always defer to the head of delegation, can you tell me, all of the agencies that were present are represented here today, is that correct, except for agriculture, tama ba?

I have a copy now of his letter... "sincere regrets. I would like to assure that representatives from the NTA will attend on my behalf." Okay. sige.

So let's go to this, the representatives of the delegation. How many were you?

[Atty Guevara: about 34]

34. Do you recognize that you were the biggest delegation there, bigger than China and Russia? You were also surprised? Who chose the members of delegation, Sec. Guevara?

[Atty Guevara: Listed before I came on board]

So would you be able to tell me, before you came on board then, who was organizing this, who was putting the group together, because it was 34. I mean, wow. Madami tayong pera para magpadala ng delegation. I was very patient listening to the speeches but I am taking a break now to just ask pointed questions because I want to know what each one did in participating there. Ang pagkaintindi ko kay Admin. Sanchez, first time niya, marami siyang natutunan. Yun ba ang reason kaya tayo pumupunta doon sa health conference? Kasi as far as I know, kaya I was referring to IAC NTA is because member diyan ang Department of Health, so the Department of Health is supposed to represent you na when it comes to health concerns. So can you elaborate?

[Atty Guevara: First thought was importance of COP10; that's why we had to have all agencies involved in health]

For the record, Sec. Abalos called me and he told me candidly that he does not know anything about it. So I'll hear from DILG later kung ano ang role niyo dun, because that's his candid response to me when he received my invitation.

[Atty Guevara: DILG was critical in chain because they deal with LGUs, big part in preventing sale of vapes to minors]

I understand...

If you were to trim this body, who would you take out?

[Atty Guevara: NTA]

Nothing prevents you from meeting all of them here in the Philippines, right? Wala naman problema na mag-usap kayo lahat dito, mag-sampung meeting kayo, paulit-ulit kayo, pero yung sumama pa lahat doon at yun nga, later on we'll hear from the advocates, I am sorry, Administrator Sanchez, you do not recognize the importance of the Dirty Ashtray award, I am sorry na para sayo, naninindigan ka na walang significance yun. Pero para sa akin, and I've represented our country many times over the last 20 years. It matters to me what other people think of our country. It matters to me that they respect our policies. It matters to me na pinapahalagahan nila ang pinaninindigan natin. So I am sorry that you do not see the importance of that. Maybe because it's your first time. I don't know.

Anyway, you know what, I will not ask you to continue answering my question. More important for me is what do you think is a reasonable size delegation for future purposes?

[Atty Guevara: when we drafted PH statement, everyone was present]

But you recognize it's a health conference, ha? And you recognize that this whole-of-government approach is a tobacco lobby? You don't have to answer that. But it's my statement. Because it is a tobacco lobby. For all of you who will pretend ignorance, who will feign ignorance, it is a tobacco lobby. Because I have asked all of you, I have given you many times to answer my question. Gumanda ba buhay ng ating mga magsasaka, ng ating tobacco farmers dahil sa inyong balanced policy? Gumanda ba? Wala naman sumagot. Nagbigay naman ako ng chance sa inyo paulit-ulit. Tapos, nakinig ako sa kahaba-habang statement gn NTA, for the record, sa iba kong hearing, hindi ako nagpapabasa ng statement. Because I expect the statements to be given to me ahead of time, I will read it before I come here and then you will just give me highlights of your statement. But because it is my first Blue Ribbon hearing, I was giving all of you the full, complete chance to tell me whatever you want to tell me and I am repeating my questions.

Ang sinabi naman ni Admin. Sanchez, pasama ng pasama ng pasama ang kalagayan ng mga magsasaka natin. So ano ba natulong ng balanced policy? Dahil dumami kayo pumunta doon, gaganda ba kalagayan ng ating magsasaka? Dahil ba na-delay ang proseso ng pag-approve ng Article 9 and 10 dahil dito sa working group, expert group, it's very technical for the ordinary citizen to understand kasi proseso ito, and I have so much respect for the DFA kasi napakadetalyado nitong mga prosesong ito, pero ang punto lang naman nito, it is a declaration of the contents, yung laman ng mga produktong binebenta natin sa kabataan, hindi sa kabataan pero napupunta sa kamay ng kabataan. I-declare lang ang laman nito, and gawing public. Yun lang naman ang puno't dulo nun, pero humaba pa at hindi na-approve, kaya nagkaroon, ma'am, for your information. Kaya ho nagkaroon ng Dirty Ashtray award. Kasi naco-consider po itong delaying tactic. For your information lang po... And we've received it for 5 years. So favorite po tayo. 5 years na tayong nakakatanggap ng ganun because of the tobacco lobby, okay?

I withdrew my question... So I'll go now to your statement. In your report, Sec. Guevara, you mentioned that the Philippines enacted the Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Products Regulation Act, which for the record, for those of you who don't know, I opposed. It is a diluted law which does not fully provide all the strengths that we could have, and it for the record removed the protective measures that were in place under the Sin Tax Law. Under the Sin Tax Law, the age of access of these products is 21 years old. Dito sa Vape Law, naging 18. Under the Sin Tax Law, it's FDA that has the authority to regulate these products. Nilipat po ito sa DTI under this law. And third, under the Sin Tax Law, ang flavors lang ng ating vape products is original flavor and menthol. Ngayon, lahat ng klaseng flavors, with a few exceptions, are available. So I would have thought that a complete report would have completed that. That we passed a Vape Law that now weakened what was a previous law. That would be a complete and comprehensive report kasi that is the truth. I am embarrassed to be part of a Congress that passed that law. But that would have been the truth. And that is what we are dealing with. So if you ask me, hindi dapat pinagmamalaki yun kasi kasama yun sa nababa. And dapat kasama dun sa highlight natin, pwede namin i-advertise sa internet ang vapes. Bakit niyo tinatago ang katotohanan? That is what you are allowing, na sa internet, kahit alam niyo naman, 14 years old, 15 years old, pwede naman tumingin sa internet, meron. So that is what should have been included. If we are going to report, let's give a complete report. Huwag lang yung one side. O diba? Kaya curious ako doon sa sinasabi mo eh ano bang side, ano bang side gusto niyo makita? Bigay niyo yung buo. You wanna tell them that we're taking care of our farmers? Tell me how we've taken care of the farmers. I want to know. I will be the first to support. But none of you can tell me. That is why we are here today. It is our job to take care of the Filipino people. Whether it's their healthcare, whether it's a private sector, that is our job. Attend kayo ng conference, ang dami niyo, ano ang na-accomplish natin? Report tayo sa Filipino people.

I want to show you something... When DTI took the floor, sabi niyo, again, I was trying to follow, pero sabi niyo, you have shown ewan ko, how many thousand show-cause orders. Ano ang gagawin natin sa show-cause orders na yan? Ayan, isang click, isang click, available lahat yan. Anong gagawin natin pagkatapos ng show-cause order? Lahat yan available. And yung mga pinagbabawal sa batas na bawal yung mga characters, colors, yung anything that attracts a child, andyan din yun. Mga metallic colors, cute colors, fruity colors. Andyan lahat yun. So will you now support, i-ban na natin ngayon ang online sales? Because if you can't control it, then tell me what you're gonna do about it? This is just preliminary because what comes out of this would come out of the proper committee. So this will most likely be referred to the Committee on Health, probably with Committee on Trade, but I am just saying, I am bringing this out because pagod na pagod na ako sa Committee on Health, paulit-ulit na lang ito and nobody is responsible. So now, let's make people responsible. If you can't do it, tell us, let's amend the law. Let's amend it in a way that will make your job easier. Would you like to answer?


So make it part of your post-hearing task, to give us specific recommendations, because these recommendations will be part of our report. Kung hindi niyo nagagawa yung trabaho niyo, sabihin niyo, kasi sa pagkakaintindi ko, banning online sales are part of different bodies already. So we want to hear it from you also, okay?


What I'd like to get out of that, Secretary, is what are your learnings there? Kasi ayoko lang na defensive tayo. I mean, I've also been in a situation where I am critiqued for my work. So if I am critiqued, I try to be as open-minded and to see kung ano ba yung value ng critique na yun, may mai-improve ba ako. So I would expect na kayong government officials, I am assuming using government funds, would be open-minded, Admin. Sanchez. Hindi dapat tayo balat-sibuyas kasi we are public officials, so we need to be able to be mature enough to accept na bakit tayo na-critique, ano ba yung nagawa namin na nakatawag ng pansin sa kanila? So I understand, may explanation ka sa statement niyo, Secretary, kung ano ang process niyo, pinagdaanan niyo, kung bakit ganun yung statements niyo, but I am also saying na because of those steps that you took, it delayed. And because FCTC, this is COP10, so sampung meeting na nga, they consider it delaying tactics kasi. I am telling you as blunt as it is. It's considered delaying tactics because ika-sampung taon na alam nila ang ginagawa ng mga countries that are known to have the support or to be willing to work with the tobacco lobbyist na ganun yung ginagawang tactics. So yun lang naman yung sakin, if maninindigan tayo na hindi tayo nagpapa-sway sa tobacco lobby, then by all means, and that's why I allowed you to make your statement, by all means, make sure that hindi kayo napupunta doon sa direksyon na yun, because that is how it appears, and it is a great embarrassment to me. I direct my ano to DFA kasi sila naman usually ang humaharap sa atin on behalf of others, and like you say, it's your first time. The Philippines is very well respected in international communities, very well respected. Kaya nasasaktan ako na magkaroon tayo ng ganitong impression, okay?

Anyway, let's go on... Department of Agriculture Usec. DV Savellano, who is not present today, was present in the... He was part of the delegation, correct? Representing DA. Ano role niya as uSec. for livestock? Ano kinalaman ng usec. for livestock dito sa WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control? May effect ba ang tobacco sa livestock?

[Atty Guevara: That is also my question]

So ano ang role niya?

Kasi yun din ang sa akin, if NTA could represent him now in a Blue Ribbon hearing, siguro NTA could also represent him there, diba? Saved pa tayo ng taxpayers' money. Again, I have nothing against conferences, I am just saying, I want to know what is the role of everybody who participated in those conferences. I will assume good faith but make sure sa susunod, alam niyo kung anong role ng bawat isa, otherwise, just participate in meetings here. And use the funding to better the lives of the Filipino farmers, which is what you keep on saying.

In the interest of time, from the agencies, ang kailangan ko pa tawagin is DILG, as Secretary said, very important ang role niyo. So can you give a brief statement on your participation in all this?


Thank you. I was listening even though I had confer with our Director General, your list of issuances to support the laws that we had enacted. But again, my point is, as I am listening to you, maraming salamat sa support na binigay niyo dahil napakahalaga niyo talaga dito sa ating campaign against smoking and the use of vapes, especially among the youth. Kailangan ba after all the work that you have done, sumama pa kayo lahat doon? And you have 3 in your delegation who went.

[DILG: We were only 2]

I do not attribute malice, okay? I am just trying to raise this reality that we were the biggest delegation, I will repeat, bigger than China and Russia. So it's up to you to determine what would be a reasonable amount to spend. We are just here to check, to be sure and to bring to your attention kung nakikita natin na baka naman pwedeng mabawas-bawasan ang dami ng attendees, pwede tayo maka-focus kung ano yung trabaho at hand, recognizing that this is a health conference. Okay? Anyway, thank you.

PLLO Asec. Rose Inigo. Just for your information, I read a number of... Thank you for... You gave us a lot of documents, so I have gone through all of them, I think very detailed. So I personally think I know what you are going to say, but just for the record, go ahead.


We're done with the agencies. Let's now go to SEATCA, this is the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, the Executive Director is with us, Dr. Yul Dorotheo... Sorry, before you proceed, were you present there? Are you part of the Philippine delegation or you go on your own?

[Dr Yul: SEATCA is an accredited observer; member of GATC]


Before you proceed, I just want to understand, who are the other Filipino parties that were present there. So of course, you represent SEATCA, and then Action for Health, were you present? Not present.

Does the Philippine delegation include NGOs? Is that something that can be considered given that you have agencies that are looking after the welfare of the Filipino? Some of our NGOs are well known and have track records of doing the same, is that something that can be considered? I am just posing a question.

[Dr Yul: PH delegation composed of reps from government]

Is that the official... parang what I read is the protocol is the delegation can bring whoever they want, tama ba? Ang understanding ko, I don't recall that it said government officials only. I-check niyo for future reference. I'm just curious. And don't worry, I am not planning tos ay 34 pa rin pero kalahati, hindi naman yun ang objective ko. I am just opening this discussion to all possibilities. Okay, Dr Yul, go ahead.


Even I'm trying to be sure I follow this correctly. It was the proposal of the Philippines to have both an expert group and a working group, and for the expert group to report to the working group, and that has never happened before. You are nodding your head because that is the proposal, correct? And my question is, that has never happened before, that there's an expert group that will report to a working group.

[Dr Yul: Usually only an expert or working group]

If I may interrupt you, I have this information, out of the 162 countries that participated, 115 had health representatives as their head of delegation, for the information of the body.


Ano ba yung mga alternative livelihood and support systems na mandate ng batas na dapat niyo ma-deliver. Pakisulat na lang sa committee yan.


Our next speaker is Health Justice Philippines, Mr. Ralph Emerson Degollacion


I forgot to mention, in all my hearings, you are allowed to take a mobility break whenever you need it, so you are free to stand, to stretch, it's not a problem. As long as you just check with the Secretariat that you are not going to be called right away, you should be able to go to the restroom anytime.

So as I am conferring with the Secretariat on our next step, if anyone wants to go for a quick bathroom break or stand up, feel free. Hearing is suspended.


While we're waiting for DOH, mukhang wala pa sila, no? Let me all on Dr. Maricar Limpin, Executive Director of Action on Health and Smoking... ASH. We've worn many hats so I wasn't sure which hat you are wearing now. So ASH.

[Dr Limpin: Premium must be put on health over economic issues; I've always been excluded from PH delegation during COP]

Just for proper decorum, the questions are addressed to me. It's okay that you have those questions, but it should be addressed to me. Go ahead. Please wrap up.


I was listening intently, as I was to all of your statements, and I think Secretary, what is important is something that Dr Limpin said, helps me clear my concerns. When you have a delegation that includes the tobacco sector representatives, for so long as their interest is the tobacco farmers, then they have a role to play, exactly as Dr Limpin pointed out. But when they are there in the guise of I don't know what, I don't know if they are pretending to be part of the health sector, or this balanced approach, this one nation approach, in the guise of that phrase, it muddles the purpose of why we are participating in these conferences. And then, because the question raised by some of you is you expressed dismay and confusion as to why the delegation received the Dirty Ashtray award. You received it for the following reasons nga. So you have members of the delegation who are representing the tobacco interest, pero hindi niyo naman dini-deretso na, ang concern lang namin ay tobacco farmers, and we want to hear from the other countries. You are now questioning or posing objections or concerns on Article 9 and 10. And Article 9 and 10 is about testing the emissions, monitoring, declaring what are the harmful products. So how does that look to the public? Sasabihin niyo para yan sa farmers, pero kinu-question niyo ang karapatan ng bawat Pilipino, ng bawat magulang na alamin kung ano ang laman ng produktong yun. Hindi naman farmers ang nakikinabang doon. So show me a statement that was made directly for the farmers and I will be the first one to defend you that you will not get that Dirty Ashtray award. Pero kung ang intervention niyo is about the right of the Filipinos to know what is in that product, tapos ang obligation na i-publish ang laman na yun, why would you attend that conference na yun ang pinaglalaban niyo? Yun ang details na inabala niyo?

So I go now directly yo DTI, because my law, against my objection, but it is the law and I have no choice but to follow that law, you are duty-bound to... RA 11900, the Vape Law, basically says that "DTI, in consultation with FDA, shall set technical standards for safety, consistency, and quality of the products." Let me now refer to Article 9. Article 9 of FCTC is the testing and measuring of the contents and emission of the tobacco product. So hindi naman siguro nagkakalayo yun, kasi DTI, paano mo magagawa itong trabaho mo to set technical standards for safety, consistency, and quality, kung hindi mo alam ang content at sukat ng mga produktong yun? Agree naman, diba? Common sense naman, Secretary, am I making sense? I just want to be sure I am logical. Dr Yul? Dr Limpin? Hindi ako doktor pero inaano ko lang. Mr Emerson?

So ang sabi lang naman sa FCTC, magkasundo tayo para magkaroon tayo ng testing and measuring of the content and emissions of the tobacco product, and the regulations of that. For me, that's just another way of saying what we have already in our law, that you set the technical standards for safety, consistency, and quality of the products, unless ang balak ba natin sabihin is gusto natin mas mababa ang standards natin for safety, consistency, and testing? No naman. Let the record show that Usec. Sanchez is vigorously shaking her head. And I am happy to know that, that it appears... I would assume that you want to have a high standard. So can you update us because during the budget hearing, what we got out of DTI is that they are still awaiting equipment, purchasing equipment, this is 2023. But for the record, because Atty Guevara you were not head of delegation then and not even involved in all of this then. All of you who are new... 2021 for the 2022 budget, Sec. Mon Lopez told me that meron nang new equipment. Tapos nung bagong administration, binibili pa lang yung equipment. So naglolokohan tayo. Because sabi ko, I stood by what the experts tell me that it is very technical, and I now defer to Dr Sacate, why don't you jump in on this discussion? When we had that budget hearing, you were also not yet the FDA director so I am again relaying this to all of you, I had asked, bakit nasa mandate ba ng DTI ang health? May capability ba ang DTI? And that's why the best I could do in the compromise of this bill is DTI, in consultation with the FDA. kasi si FDA naman ang alam kong may alam diyan, so may I know from the two of you, are you working together? Who is setting the standard? And are you happy with the standard that we have?


What you are saying is in the absence of guidelines from the FCTC, you are prepared. So can you submit that to us? Can you just work together para hindi na ako mag-countercheck ng sabi mo, sabi mo. Can you submit something jointly?


To be very clear, devices, yun pa lang yung lalagyan, okay? And in the past hearings, I don't know how many of you were with DTI, FDA, DOH at the time I was handling the budget discussions on this, there were initial discussions between FDA and DTI that si DTI would handle the device but FDA would handle the liquid. So where are you now with that?


Sandali, so are you telling me that without the FCTC guidelines, hindi ka pwede mag-initiate ng testing mo, wala kang sariling standards?

So na-accomplish ang goal ng vaping and tobacco industry na delay? Because kung aantayin mo pa yun, wala tayong testing, so tuloy ang ligaya. Ibenta ng ibenta yang mga produktong yan sa mga bata na hindi natin alam kung anong nakakalason. Is that what you are saying?

Basically yes? Mr Secretary, is that acceptable to you that that is the outcome of your delegation's trip to this convention?


Another item there, Mr Secretary, that I am pretty sure you didn't miss, but I need to hear it from you, is that yung binebenta naman sa consenting adults, ano laman nun? Alam ba nila? Nare-regulate ba natin?


Mr Secretary, thank you for your explanation. I understand, I've been a participant in conferences many times. I will just, my short comment is simply that, perhaps precisely why some of your colleagues from other countries look towards you is because the Philippines does have a reputation of really being in the forefront of negotiations. And that's why it remains to be a disappointment that the position that it appears that you take is always in terms of not pursuing a policy that protects health. Again, I will repeat, because you keep saying that you do not understand. I will repeat, if you will say that you are here to support the balanced approach, which includes the interests of the farmers, nakakalito even for me na aral na aral ko ang tobacco issues, ang legislation, na kung farmers ang gusto mong proteksyunan, bakit mo pipigilan at naga-appear na pinipigilan yung mga articles tungkol sa testing and measuring? That is not meant to hurt the farmers, that is meant to protect all people na ma-test ng maayos. Yun lang ang point ng Dirty Ashtray award, kasi yung provisions na ito na gustong maisulong, hindi nga naisulong. So there's a lot of confusion na sinasaksak niyo na, kasi we are a tobacco growing... Eh kaya nga, anong naitulong niyo sa mga farmers, and for the benefit of Sen. Alan Cayetano, and I need to give him the floor now, I had asked pointedly since they keep on saying that the reason why they have a delegation with all these people present, ano ang naitulong sa mga farmers directly? Dahil the data shows that the farmers are the poorest sector. And the tobacco farmers, I do not have any other data that shows na mas angat sila sa ibang klaseng farmers. Wala, wala naman nakasagot sa akin. So ang point ko, so bakit pa natin ginagawa ito? Yun naman yung point ko. Again, Mr Secretary, out of respect, you wanted to say something, I gave you the floor, I'll have to give it to my brother, na siya lang ang pinansin ko ng ganito katagal dahil kapatid ko naman siya. So I haven't even acknowledged his presence. May we acknowledge the presence of Sen. Cayetano...


I understand, my point is I hope you also understand that when you come to the table with this balanced policy, and say that it is for the benefit of the Filipino farmers, pero ang naaapektuhan na mga provisions are things like testing and monitoring, then nako-confuse, and even I would conclude, was that meant to help or not? Kaya yun, and then may history na tayo. So sadly for you, you come in with a history na apat na taon na rin naman yung Pilipinas. So kumbaga, you don't come in with a clean slate. So may burden tayo to show, and I say tayo, because you represent the Philippines. And I trust that you intend to represent us well, and I understand your explanations, I do. Pero you also have to understand kung ano ang pinanggagalingan and ano yung paradigm that you are working in.


For the record, Usec. DV Savellano was the DA representative of delegation, but he wrote a letter that he is not available today. And he said NTA can ably represent him, so yung questions mo for DA can be addressed to NTA, but anyone who can support and answer, please.


Senate Blue Ribbon hearing on Dirty Ashtray
Transcript (part 2)


Just for the information of DepEd and DILG, and Sen. Alan, everyone, I think it was I don't know who, I think DILG, on strictly following or trying to implement the 100 meters away from schools. For the record, the kind of fights that I fight is, I pushed for 200 meters, talo. Why wouldn't you accept 200 meters? Why wouldn't you allow this to be farther from the reach of children? So that, Mr Secretary, is the reason why you came into this position na ganun na yung tingin naming mga advocates sa nagre-represent sa Philippines. Kasi time and again, they pretend to be pro-health and yet every action we take is not pro-health. Dun nanggagaling yun. And you do have that burden that you had to fill in those shoes as head of delegation without the knowledge of all of these things that have transpired. Very quickly, because we do have very involved resource persons here, we have a session at 3 o'clock. Your agencies were not in the conference but you have been very active in the fight against tobacco. So can you just give a quick statement and then your full statements will be a part of the record. Ms. Angelica Ramirez.


And then we call on Atty. Paula Tanquieng, from the Action for Economic Reforms, they were very active with us during the Sin Tax deliberations and many others.


Thank you very much. I'll remind DOH and particularly FDA, to submit so that before the next hearing, I want to see what you have already done in terms of the equipment, the personnel you need for proper testing, registration, and so on and so forth, and whatever collaboration you have. Because I think, Al, before you arrived, I also gave a bit of history that during the time of Sec. Mon Lopez, he told me that they already had equipment and then in the hearing 3 months ago, they told me they're buying. So paikot-ikot lang tayo, kahit ako, niloloko lang ako na may equipment walang equipment, may tao walang tao.

Anyway, I'd like to also end on this note to show you... These are examples of some vapes, ecigs. This one is called Korean dessert. Clearly, as you would know, USec. Sanchez, outlawed. You are not allowed to show pictures of desserts, okay? But at the very least, and of course I have no idea if this is accurate. Meron siyang list of ingredients. So that's why we really know. Technically, even before they put this here, just like any other food or cosmetic product, you test it kung tama yung nilalagay niyang laman niyan. And then this one has nothing. It has nothing. This does not even try to comply with the laws. So I hope you understand, those of you who are not in the health and trade, because it's the two that are primarily involved. This is what we deal with on a day-to-day basis. Very attractive to kids, this is very neon, very metallic... Watermelon...


They did, they said they issued thousands of show-cause orders, and then I said, and then?


So kasama siguro sa conspiracy yun na kina-cut yung budget ng testing. I wouldn't be surprised, seriously. But sadly, there are so many people in your office who know that I am the advocate, how come no one told me? You don't even try, you don't even try to get a bigger budget. I would've given you a bigger budget. I would've sacrificed other advocacies that I have to give the budget to you. Because you don't bother... And then kayo naman sa health, you know that I am counting on you. You know that I am counting on you to have our backs, to look after these kids, because DTI, that is not at the forefront of their consciousness. Wala naman sa mandate nila yung health, nasa inyo. So every step of the way, you should be there watching. Nobody brought it to my attention. It's very annoying. So ano tayo ngayon, titigan? Titigan tayo ngayon? Titigan tayo until next budget, wala tayo pang-testing? My Gosh. Puro lokohan ang ginagawa natin dito.


I'll end on this note. For all of those who have expressed surprise that this delegation received the Dirty Ashtray award, one of the provisions that was questioned was the delegation's concern on the comprehensive ban on advertisement. And as I try to digest why would you want there to be advertisements of attractive colors, of flavors for the youth? Why would you want it if you are trying to protect the youth? We should be for a comprehensive ban. And yet here we are, hindi tayo pumapayag na may comprehensive ban tayo. And yet yung industry, comprehensive yung tactics niya, including itong pag-confuse sa inyo na nagtataka pa kayo bakit tayo nagkaroon ng Dirty Ashtray award? My ability to communicate it was probably not even comprehensive enough, thankfully, my brother bothered to take time and tried to explain it from a different point of view, para lalong maintindihan ng mga nalilito kung bakit we deserve the Dirty Ashtray award. And then we hear that after all these years of telling me that may budget and merong equipment na nandyan na daw, I'll find out na na-cut yung budget, walang nag-abala to request para madagdagan natin yung budget for the testing? And then we're arguing about the testing pero wala naman tayong pang-test? It's a very comprehensive approach to making sure that the products are out there poisoning our youth, that is the approach, and they are successful.

And if any of you here, because all of you, except for a few from the civil society, are in bed with the tobacco industry, that is a crime. And this Committee will not stand for it. By not acting on your job, you are committing a crime. So work with me so we can protect the children of this country. Work with me so that those who have addiction can truly seek the medical help they need and not be persuaded by unregulated advertisement that simply tell them this is a safer alternative, this is a less harmful alternative. May I know from DOH... FDA... has any of these tobacco companies gone to FDA and requested... the permission to sell a product that is a cessation device? Meron ba sa kanila?

[FDA: None yet, no policy yet]

Regardless kung may policy ka, may lumapit ba? Wala nga. Magkaroon ka na rin ng policy, para kapag may lumapit. But my point is, they are all trying to sell it, they'll say it in any possible way, they'll say that it's less harmful, and yet they will not go to FDA to get a certification that it is less harmful.


The time is late, I know you've given us most of your day. I thank you very much. Thank you for your patience also, it is not a comfortable discussion, so I appreciate everyone's professionalism. It is my job to, it is not a task that I chose, and yet it is my job to be able to sit through these uncomfortable hearings, and hopefully, everybody comes here with good intentions, but not everybody will as we have seen in previous hearings. But it is my intention to make everybody to be as comfortable as possible and never to humiliate anyone or to put words in your mouth. You are always welcome to clarify the statements you make and if you want to follow up with a written statement or talk to my staff, you are free to do that.

On that note, I will suspend so you can all go about your day. Thank you for your time.

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