Health advocates slam int’l tobacco growers meet in PHBy Tina G. Santos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Anti-tobacco and health advocates on Tuesday slammed the planned meeting of the International Tobacco Growers Association in Manila amid the Philippine Senate’s deliberation on the sin tax bill.
“The fact that ITGA is holding its conference in Manila at a time that the Senate is set to decide on imposing a higher levy on tobacco products is an insult to the sovereignty of the legislative branch. The tobacco lobby and its minions are now using all its resources to influence legislation to side with business than with health,” according to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines.
“This is a desperate act by the ITGA which we all know is a front group of the tobacco industry. Surely all the hype being waged by the industry about the economic and job losses to tobacco farming because of increased taxes are nothing but empty threats compared to the truth that millions of lives are being lost due to smoking,” added Dr. Maricar Limpin, FCAP executive director.
According to FCAP, ITGA has been holding conferences in different parts of Asia to lobby against government-imposed tobacco control measures and criticize the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control signed by 176 countries.
ITGA is a front group using tobacco farmers and funded by transnational companies Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco, it added.
Limpin said ITGA is trying to challenge the sin tax bill currently being deliberated by the Senate by holding their meeting in Manila on Tuesday and being hyped as attended by tobacco farmers.
The ITGA is against Articles 17 and 18 of the FCTC pertaining to crop substitution and accuses the WHO of trying to kill tobacco farming in the world by pushing for alternative livelihood, she added.
Meanwhile, the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, which has also been opposing the ITGA meeting in Manila, said tobacco-farming areas in Northern Philippines could shift to planting garlic and other food crops which are more profitable.
Citing results of the 2011 Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, SEATCA said farmgate prices and incomes for garlic, tomato, eggplant and onion in the Ilocos region yield higher profits compared to tobacco which produces only P147,400 in earnings per hectare or at P67 per kilo. Compare this to garlic which yields a total P252,000 earnings per hectare or P84 per kilo in the Ilocos region. Food crops, unlike tobacco, are also harvested twice a year.
SEATCA said transnational tobacco companies are focusing on Asian markets like the Philippines as they lose grip in the West where stronger tobacco control measures are in place.