Committee A chair hails PH’s ‘collaborative spirit’ at COP10 | Inquirer News

Committee A chair hails PH’s ‘collaborative spirit’ at COP10

07:00 PM February 23, 2024

 Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Hubert Guevara, the head of the Philippine delegation to the 10th Conference of Parties (COP), recently held in Panama City. who COP10

Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Hubert Guevara, the head of the Philippine delegation to the 10th Conference of Parties (COP), recently held in Panama City.

MANILA, Philippines — A few members of the Philippine delegation were praised for demonstrating cooperation to reach a consensus on Agenda item 6.2 while defending national interests at the global tobacco control treaty’s 10th Conference of the Parties (COP10), said the chair of Committee A.

In a note read by Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Hubert Guevara during a Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on the Philippines’ participation in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control’s (WHO FCTC) COP10, the chair of Committee A, Dr. Nuntavarn Vichit-Vadakan, expressed gratitude to the Philippine delegation concerning one agenda item — and the message had no bearing or relation to the Philippines receiving a “Dirty Ashtray” Award from a nongovernmental organization that functioned as an observer of the proceedings.


“I would like to extend my gratitude to the Philippines’ delegation for your cooperation in reaching a consensus regarding Agenda Item 6.2. Acknowledging the intricacies of the national context of the parties and agreeing to the requests of other parties while upholding your national interests demonstrates the collaborative spirit that is essential in negotiations. I expect that this trend will continue beyond COP11,” said Dr. Vichit-Vadakan, who also serves as founding dean of the School of Global Studies in the Faculty of Public Health at Thammasat University in Thailand.


However, Guevara, who headed the Philippine delegation at COP10, expressed shock at receiving the “Dirty Ashtray” Award as the Philippine national position highlighted a balanced approach that defended the interests of the state and sought to protect thousands of families dependent on tobacco farming.

“Kaya mahirap po para sakin ang pagbabalanse ng aking ginawa para protektahan ang karapatan ng lahat ng tao sa pagkabuhay. But if by protecting our state policy, the 20,000 or more families whose lives are dependent on tobacco farming, and the rest of our countrymen who are able to avail of the benefits of our health care system funded by the excise taxes imposed on the sale of tobacco, we are given the Dirty Ashtray Award, then I am willing to own it up as head of the delegation,” Guevara said.

“With all due respect, we were proud of how we conducted ourselves all throughout COP10. We can describe our participation in COP10 as collaborative, flexible, and consensus-building, always advocating for a way forward on deadlock issues,” he added.

The Dirty Ashtray Award was given to the Philippines on the last day of the conference by a non-governmental organization that functioned as an observer of the proceedings.

Hurdling accusations of muddling the agenda and causing delays, Guevara asserted that the delegation pushed for consensus as a possible compromise, supporting the reenactment of a working group made up of state parties working with the expert group. The latter would be accountable to the working group as an advisory and consultative group.

The delegation requested the Convention Secretariat to clearly delineate the roles or terms of reference of the working group and the expert group. The Committee A chairperson Dr. Vichit-Vadakan acknowledged the Philippine proposal as a middle-of-the-road path that could lead the COP to consensus.


In an informal poll conducted after an agreement had yet to be reached, Guevara said the Philippines was not in favor of deferring matters to COP11.

“The Philippines had always been in favor of looking for ways to move forward and was not in favor of deferral. ‘Di po namin ginugulo ang mga debate sa COP10. How can being flexible and proposing a way forward be deemed as stubborn refusal to change an opinion?” he said.

Guevara stressed that the national positions were based on RA 911 and RA 11900. These refer to legislation regulating tobacco products including novel and emerging tobacco.  He further noted that the Department of Health (DOH) and all agencies were involved in the rigorous drafting process.

The Philippines during COP10 proceedings stressed a tailored, multi-sectoral approach to FCTC implementation that must take cues from varying national contexts and priorities and domestic legislation – a position lauded by harm reduction experts worldwide.

Professor David Sweanor, chair of the advisory board of the Center for Health Law, Policy, and Ethics at the University of Ottawa, supported the country’s resistance to heavily funded efforts denying consumers safer alternatives to smoking cigarettes.

“To criticize a country for defending the right of people to access life-saving products shows a frighteningly authoritarian and moralistic agenda. If we are to successfully reduce cigarette smoking, anti-tobacco groups need to learn from countries like the Philippines rather than denigrate them,” Professor Sweanor said.

Martin Cullip, an international fellow of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) emphasized the Philippines’ strong stance in favor of tobacco harm reduction, instead of an outright ban.

“In COP9, the Philippines said, ‘We are not going to ban these products, we are going to regulate them,’ and this sent shockwaves throughout the meeting,” he noted.

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This story was updated on March 14, 2024, at 12:44 p.m. to reflect the clarification of Dr. Vichit-Vadakan regarding her message to the Philippine delegation.

TAGS: Dirty Ashtray award, Tobacco, WHO

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