DFA's Locsin draws praise for science-based PH position on ending smoking problem  | Inquirer News
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DFA’s Locsin draws praise for science-based PH position on ending smoking problem 

/ 06:48 PM November 11, 2021

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III affirmed the country’s position for regulation and taxation, as well as a science-based approach in dealing with the smoking problem.

MANILA, Philippines — Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. drew wide praise from the Cabinet and Congress for presenting a balanced and science-based Philippine position in the on-going tobacco control conference of the World Health Organization being held virtually this week.

“We support the Philippine delegation to the WHO FCTC ninth Conference of the Parties headed by Sec. Locsin for pushing for an inclusive and participative decision making in crafting global policy recommendations. Tobacco control approach cannot be one-dimensional.

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Health and economic aspects should both be considered as we have more than 2.2 million individual workers and dependents who get their income from tobacco production, trading, manufacturing and distribution,” Labor Sec. Silvestre Bello III said.

Locsin leads the Philippine panel in the Ninth Conference of the Parties (COP 9) of the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and thus far most of the proposals introduced by the country have been carried by an overwhelming majority and have been described as a “vindication of the deliberative process, clarity and transparency” by delegates.

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Deputy House Speaker Deogracias Victor Savellano and Surigao del Norte, 2nd District Rep. Ace Barbers, however, lashed out at “extremist critics” of Locsin and his team for their disrespect of our country’s sovereignty.

They commended Locsin for espousing a “balance and evidence-based” Philippine position at COP 9 that took into account public health, taxes and livelihood of tobacco farmers.

In his opening address, Locsin called on the WHO “to regain the momentum” of tobacco control and consider “evolving and latest scientific information” in solving the global smoking problem.”

“No extinction by extreme taxation. Bans would only drive operators underground and substitute smuggling. That would further enrich countries that have made tobacco a state monopoly. Why would we allow that?” Locsin said.

Bello affirmed “the country’s position for regulation and taxation, and a science-based approach in dealing with the smoking problem.”

The total tobacco industry contributed P149.7B in 2020 in excise tax badly needed during the pandemic as this was earmarked for the government’s Universal Health Care program.

“We support and commend Sec. Locsin for safeguarding the rights and welfare of all stakeholders and carrying the Philippines’ position to adopt a balanced and evidence-based regulations in tobacco control,” he said.

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Barbers, for his part, was alarmed over reports of disrespect to the Philippine delegates in the COP 9.

“Western countries should not dictate their health policies on the Philippines. No one has a monopoly of health ideas. Circumstances vary for each country and these countries should respect the national position of the Philippines as a fellow State Party,” he said.

Barbers reiterated his support to the Philippine delegation “as they look after the interest of our country and our people in COP 9.”

“The problem with these countries is that they don’t realize the economic and social benefits that our country derives from this industry. This is coupled with the gains that come from the less harmful smoke free products that results from the R&D and innovation from this sector,” Barber said.

Savellano said “advancement in science and technology has given us an opportunity to address concerns over smoking without necessarily neglecting the reality that tobacco farming is a source of livelihood for more than 39,000 tobacco farmers.”

“As much as we want to end the harm associated with tobacco use, we also should not deprive people of means to put food on the table for their families,” he added.

At the start of its virtual session, the COP approved an agenda for its Ninth Session that adopted proposed amendments and additional text from the Philippine delegation.

The Philippine proposal stressed that since no substantive discussions will be done in COP 9, the decision making should be deferred to COP 10 when the parties could possibly meet face to face.

The Philippines also proposed that as the mandate of the Expert Group working on Article 9 (Regulation of the contents of tobacco products) and Article 10 (Regulation of tobacco product disclosures) is extended under the guidance of the FCTC Bureau, parties to the treaty should be consulted whenever appropriate.

JPV

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TAGS: DFA, DFA Secretary Teddy Locsin Jr., Labor Secretary Bello, Tobacco
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