House health panel chief supports marijuana bill for certain ailments

House health panel chief supports marijuana bill for certain ailments

/ 01:46 AM February 08, 2024

The chairperson of the House committee on health has thrown his support for bills that would allow the use of medicinal cannabis for certain health ailments, but expressed concerns about some provisions in the substitute bill.

A marijuana plant. —AFP

MANILA, Philippines — The chairperson of the House committee on health has thrown his support for bills that would allow the use of medicinal cannabis for certain health ailments, but expressed concerns about some provisions in the substitute bill.

Committee chair and Batanes Rep. Ciriaco Gato said during the tail end of the joint hearing on Wednesday that while he backs the substitute bill finalized by his panel and the House committee on dangerous drugs, he has strong reservations over allowing the cultivation of the marijuana plant in the country.


Medicinal cannabis or particularly Cannabidiol (CBD) oil — derived from the marijuana plant — is believed to alleviate pain and seizures in some patients battling epilepsy, cerebral palsy, and other neurological conditions.  However, a law allowing normal use of CBD oil is needed as the plant is currently labeled as a banned substance.


“I’d like to put it on record that I support the bill, the committee report, with a big, strong reservation.  It’s a yes with a strong reservation on the manufacture, cultivation, of marijuana,” Gato said.

“I strongly support the importation of medical cannabis in its pharmaceutical form and have it to be more accessible to all patients that need, in the judgement of an accredited physician, they should be given, the patient should be given the option with the advice or the guidance of his attending physician.  I don’t believe that the cultivation and the manufacturing is not yet time for our country,” he added.

Cultivation and manufacturing of marijuana is included in Section 6 of the draft substitute bill which was discussed by the two committees earlier.  Under the panel, the proposed Medical Cannabis Office will be in charge of promulgating rules in the importation, cultivation, and manufacture of medicinal cannabis.

During the deliberations, Medical Cannabis Research Center founder Chuck Manansala even suggested that possible exportation of medical-grade marijuana be included in the mandate of the MCO, noting that the Philippines could capitalize on producing medicinal cannabis like the Netherlands.

“I noticed that the process of export is not included.  I can imagine that in the future eh the industry will be developed and we can do what the Netherlands has been doing, that they are able to export medical-grade cannabis to other countries and that can also help a lot in developing the economy,” Manansala said.

“But I think we should control that also in terms of quality and other considerations,” he added.


Former president and now Pampanga 2nd District Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, however, stressed that the bill, when it was being discussed by the technical working group (TWG), was focused on tolerating marijuana products for sick people and not creating or actively promoting an industry.

“You know when we were doing the TWG, there was a debate, I mean an increasing debate between tolerance and active promotion.  And many of our arguments and many of our decisions that time were directed towards just mere tolerance,” she said.

“So I don’t know about planning to export, and all those things.  In other words, I don’t think in the TWG we were envisioning developing the industry.  We’re just tolerating the use of medical cannabis for sick people or people you know with body aches and pains,” she added.

Arroyo also said that it’s wrong to compare the Philippines with the Netherlands because the situation is different — a lot of illegal substances in the Philippines are regulated in the European country.

“But maybe it’s premature to go into those things that ‘we’ll develop an industry for other markets’.  Netherlands, marijuana is legal, oh so many drugs are legal, we’re not in that stage, we’re in the stage of tolerating but closely regulating, not in the stage of promoting an industry,” she noted.

Committee on dangerous drugs chair and Surigao del Norte 2nd District Rep. Robert Ace Barbers agreed with Arroyo as it would be prudent to take one step at a time in discussing medicinal cannabis.

“Though it may be inviting to be able to develop an industry out of this in the future, at the moment, probably siguro we’ll take it one step at a time.  Kasi bago ito eh (because this is new),” Barbers noted.

The House in the 19th Congress started discussing medicinal cannabis proposals almost a year ago, when several bills were referred to the committees.  However, this is not the first time that proposals seeking to allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes were filed in Congress.

READ: Alvarez wants cannabis out of dangerous drugs list: It’s part of a solution 

In 2018, the call for medicinal marijuana got support from senators.  In the 19th Congress, Senator Robinhood Padilla filed a bill pushing for the compassionate use of medical marijuana.

READ: Padilla assures public medical marijuana bill has enough safeguards vs abuse 

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Even hardline anti-drug personalities like Senator Ronald dela Rosa — who implemented former president Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war — urged people to open their hearts and minds for compassionate use of medicinal marijuana.

TAGS: House, marijuana, medical, support

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