Press Release
February 14, 2024

Pia dismayed over 5th Dirty Ashtray award received by the Philippines
Transcript of Sen. Pia Cayetano's Privilege speech

Mr. President, I rise on a matter of personal and collective privilege. For the 5th time, the Philippines has received the Dirty Ashtray award. The reason is we were blocking global tobacco control efforts. When I say we, it is a great embarrassment to me, your honor, that the representatives for us, for the Philippines, stood before a global audience of mostly health advocates, and they advocated for the tobacco industry, Mr. President.

The Global Alliance for Tobacco Control again awarded the notorious Dirty Ashtray to the Philippine delegation on the last day of the 10th session of the Conference of Parties, otherwise known as COP10, to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, otherwise known as the WHO-FCTC, held in Panama City from February 5-10. The FCTC is a treaty negotiated under the auspices of the World Health Organization created in response to the tobacco epidemic. The treaty has 168 signatories, and 180 parties, including the Philippines. The Philippines ratified the FCTCon February 22, 2005. According to the WHO, the FCTC provides a global response to the global tobacco epidemic, it described the FCTC as an evidence-based treaty that reaffirms all people's right to the highest standard of health. Regular sessions of the COP are held every two years.

The Philippine delegation this year was given the Dirty Ashtray award for its brazen use of tobacco industry tactics to dispute and delay throughout COP10. According to the Southeast Asian Tobacco Control Alliance, otherwise known as SEATCA, after almost 3 days of deliberation, parties failed to achieve consensus to establish an expert group to facilitate the implementation of FCTC articles 9 and 10 on the regulation and disclosure of the contents and emission of tobacco products. With the Philippines joining a minority of parties blocking consensus.

What is article 9 and article 10? Article 9 deals with the testing and measuring of the content and emission of tobacco products and regulation. My dear colleagues, mga kababayan, sino ba may ayaw na i-test at sukatin ang laman ng tobacco products? Bakit ayaw? Bakit ayaw ipa-test? Ano ba laman nun? Ayaw ipaalam sa atin. Bakit naman tayo may delegation na hinaharang ang information na makakasakit sa ating mga kabataan? Hinaharang dahil meron silang nilalagay doon na nakakasama sa kabataan. Imagine, ganun na nga ginagawa nila, dirty tactics, sinuportahan pa ng gobyernong ito. Sinama pa sila at sinuportahan pa ang mga ganitong pangyayari. Nakakahiya, Mr. President.

Now what is article 10? Article 10 deals with the disclosure of information on such contents and emissions to governmental authorities and the public. Disclosure of information. Ang nais lang naman ipaglaban ng health advocates is kayong mga tobacco product sellers, distributors, companies, ligal naman ang pagbebenta niyo. Pinayagan naman kayo magbenta sa aming bansa, pero you must conform to regulation. You must disclose kung ano ang laman ng mga produkto niyo, para ma-regulate naman kayo. Dahil kung hindi kayo mare-regulate, paano naman ang mga kabataan, paano naman ang mga may edad na adik? Dahil nga may mga laman yan na nakakaadik at nakakasama sa katawan. Why in the world would we send a delegation that would prevent full disclosure of harmful ingredients in tobacco products, including vapes and ecigs? Why? Because we do not have the political will to fight against these tobacco companies. Nakakahiya. It's bad enough that these tobacco companies can get away with it, but it is even worse and unacceptable na sinasamahan pa sila, inimbita pa na sumama dito sa conference na ito. Ang sumasama dapat sa conference na ito, health advocates. Kung gusto naman ng tobacco companies na fair lang ang turing sa kanila, na makapagbenta sila, nakakapagbenta naman sila, eh. Regulation lang ang gusto natin. And sinamahan pa sila, holding hands pa sila ng ating government officials to attend this international conference. I have no words, Mr President. It is an embarrassment.

According to the reports, the Philippines proposed a compromise option that further muddled the discussion and caused more delays. My God. My Lord. bakit ba kayo pinanganak at nagdala pa ng ganyang tao sa isang health conference na manggugulo lang. With no more time left to continue deliberations, this agenda item was deferred to COP11. Every delay is a win for the tobacco companies. Every delay is on the hands of our government officials who allowed it, who held hands with these people and allowed it and are probably cheering na na-accomplish nila yan. Babalik ko, ano ang na-accomplish nila? Ginulo nila yung mga debates, para yung simpleng requirement na ilista nila at i-submit nila yung ingredients na laman ng kanilang produkto, ibibigay nila hindi nila magawa, nanggulo pa sila. Dinelay pa nila. Dinamay pa nila yung buong mundo. Nakakahiya, Mr President.

Former health secretaries Alexander Padilla and Esperanza Cabral have said that this is alarming and the Philippine delegation should take the dishonor as a wake-up call. Hindi lang wake up call, Mr President. Ikulong na yang mga taong yan. Budget pa tayo ng budget, our Chairman of the Committee on Health is here, budget pa tayo ng budget, debate pa tayo ng debate na increase yung budget ng healthcare, but on the other hand, sabay-sabay sumasakay ng eroplano at uma-attend ng health conference para guluhin yung health conference na yan at para i-dilute yung mga provisions na makakapagbigay lang naman ng information sa ating lahat. Kaya tuloy maraming naniniwalang nakakabuti sa kanila ang vapes. Kasi, hindi naman binibigyan ng public info, hindi pinapaalam sa public kung ano ang laman niyan. At ito, harap-harapan na ipaglalaban nila na itago yung information.

Eleven former health and education officials have urged the Philippine representatives to the COP10 of the WHO FCTC to take a stand against e-cigarettes or vapes amidst an increase in use among the Filipino youth:

Dr. Jaime Galvez Tan (DOH Secretary, 1995), Dr. Carmencita Reodica (DOH Secretary, 1996-1998), Dr. Manuel Dayrit (DOH Secretary, 2001-2005), Dr. Esperanza Cabral (DSWD Secretary 2005-2009 and DOH Secretary 2010), Dr. Paulyn Rosell Ubial (DOH Secretary, 2016-2017), Atty. Alexander Padilla (DOH Undersecretary, 2001-2009), Dr. Susan Mercado (DOH Undersecretary, 1998-2001), Dr. Madeleine Valera (DOH Undersecretary, 2012-2013); and former education department officials Bro. Armin Luistro (DepEd Secretary, 2010-2016), and Atty. Alberto Muyot (Deped Undersecretary, 2010-2016)

I can only speak also for former Secretary Liling Briones because she had made statements about this in the past when I handled DepEd budget.

The Philippines received its first Dirty Ashtray award at COP4 in 2010 but at least it was redeemed the next year and received an Orchid Award at COP5 when it excluded tobacco industry representatives from its delegation. Yun lang, Mr President, bakit ka naman magdadala ng delegation ng industriyang nire-regulate doon? Bakit? Dalhin niyo sa trade conference, walang problema. Pero bat mo dadalhin sa isang health conference tapos magpapadikta ka? Yan ang ginagawa po natin, Mr President. Nakakahiya.

At COP9 in 2021, the Philippines was given three Dirty Ashtray awards. These awards are given to "companies and governments seen as peddlers of tobacco industry interests." So the Philippines is a peddler of tobacco industry interest. Nagtaka pa ba tayo? Why would we allow it? Wala tayong ginawa kundi ipaglaban ang ating mga kababayan, ipaglaban ang mga kabataan. But we allow government officials to do this right before our very eyes. Based on the studies collated by the Inquirer, the Vape Law that was supposed to curb tobacco smoking among adults and the youth is instead leading to a spike in the use of so-called alternatives, which experts said were as harmful, if not more harmful, than tobacco.

In-depth research is showing that the law is insufficient and leading to a failure to adequately deter some tobacco and related products from ending up at the hands of young people.

This flaw is fueling a growing trend of smoking and vape addiction among Filipino youth, and it is now coined "vapedemic" or the widespread use of vape.

A study published online in the National Library of Medicine (NLM) summarized some of the warnings and worries aired by vape law critics in past years. The law, the researchers said, "not only legitimizes the use of vaping products but also lowers the age at which these can be accessed." The vape law allows access to tobacco, vapes, and e-cigarettes to 18-year-olds, when we had already passed a law pegging the age at 21.

Despite regulations, a separate study by the Institute for Global Tobacco Control (IGTC) at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health found ongoing sales and advertising of tobacco products near many schools in the Philippines.

"There is ample evidence showing that tobacco companies employ various strategies to promote their products, aiming to attract the attention of children and young individuals"

Renowned Filipino tobacco control advocate and Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) Executive Director Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo had described the then-vape bill as "a retrogressive bill in more ways than one."

I will repeat, Mr President, the Vape Law, (RA 11900) overturned 3 protective measures that this representation fought for in the Sin Tax Law (RA 11467):

Jurisdiction to regulate vapes and HTPs was transferred from FDA to DTI Lowered the minimum age of access from 21 to 18 years old Allowed more flavors instead of limiting it to plain tobacco and plain menthol

Mr President, may I ask that we show again the slide? Historically, these industries used doctors or at least actors that looked like doctors to somehow promote that some cigarettes are healthier than others. This was done I think in the 1950s, 1960s. And time and again, I kept on saying that same lang naman ang playbook nila. They will still use whether it's doctors, meron pang dentista, nagsasalita pa sila sa mga conference na patago pero nalalaman naman natin, kino-convince ang ibang professionals na mag-shift sa vape. Hindi dapat mag-shift, dapat huwag nang manigarilyo at huwag din mag-vape.

The tobacco industry is slimy, to say the least. Thay have a track record of avoiding regulation all over the world. In 2009, we passed the FDA Law which intended to cover all tobacco products and other products that have an effect on health. The industry filed a TRO on FDA issued regulations covering tobacco. We actually won this case after 10 years. The Supreme Court ruled that tobacco products affect health and therefore is under the jurisdiction of the FDA. But of course, nag-motion for reconsideration pa ang mga tobacco companies kasi ayaw na ayaw nila magpa-regulate. Hindi ko po kinakampihan ang FDA, marami ring pagkukulang ang FDA, but they do have the jurisdiction to regulate. Sila lang ang mga ability. Kung gusto natin galingan nila, it's either palitan natin yung head para mas magaling o bigyan natin ng pondo para mas maganda yung trabaho. But you cannot just give this jurisdiction to DTI, which is what we did, Mr. President.

Mr. President, we have a public duty to protect public health. The loss of lives is immeasurable. The young people that may not reach their full potential because they die of tobacco and tobacco-related products, which includes vapes and ecigs, is real. We must aim to make better legislation which prepares us for the future, and we must aim to make these people who are passing on fake and downright incorrect information, and doing it in public, and protecting the tobacco companies, they must be held liable.

For the record, these are the COP10 delegation:

Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Hubert Guevarra from the Office of the President led the largest government delegation at COP10 with more than 30 officials and staff. Wow. Wow. malaman ko nga kung ano ang budget na pinadala natin sa WHO because in May, and I was a delegate to the WHO World Health Assembly, not at the expense of the Senate or the government, if I may be clear about it, but I was sponsored by WHO itself to talk about the fight that many of you have joined me with against these tobacco companies.

So now, may 30 na pumunta doon, 30 na ginastusan pa na makarating doon:

Congress Representative Rodante Marcoleta and his staff;
Representatives from the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office
Department of Agriculture
National Tobacco Administration
Department of Trade and Industry
Department of Foreign Affairs
Department of Health
Department of Education
Department of the Interior and Local Government
Food and Drug Administration

In my humble opinion, talagang dapat mag-attend niyan Department of Health and Department of Education, kasi yan ang nangangalaga ng kalusugan natin and kapakanan ng kabataan natin. Sila, okay. Kung may isang dadating from the Office of the President, wala naman ho akong problema. Pero among these people, kasama pa ho dyan ang mga tobacco industry representatives.

The Philippines sent the largest government delegation to the COP10. Wow. wow ganun ba tayo kayaman? Ganun ba ka importante sa atin na pagtakpan at tulungan ang tobacco industry na kailangan pa samahan ng government officials? Kaya pala magkakasakit na at mamamatay na ang kabataan natin because we don't care. We send our government officials to protect the tobacco industry.

Madami pa akong pwedeng sabihin, Mr President. But I think I've said the most important issues. Sadly, the Philippines has received this Dirty Ashtray award, and two years in a row na. Ano to, buong administration, 6 years? Yan na lang ba paghahandaan ko? I would have actually attended, because I wanted to have a voice. But the way it works is the head of delegation is the only one who can speak. And you know very well, Mr President, they will not make me the head of delegation because I would never support the tobacco industry. So I hope, my dear colleagues, you can continue to support those of us who have been standing firmly to protect our youth against the evils of the tobacco industry.

Thank you, Mr President.

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