Health groups to Duterte: Appoint Health and Trade Sec who have no links to the tobacco industry

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HealthJustice Philippines, Medical Action Group and WomanHealth Philippines, composed of lawyers, medical doctors and tobacco control and health advocates, called on President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, himself a known advocate of tobacco control, to appoint “fearless and uncompromising leaders who can be tough against the tobacco industry” to the Departments of Health and Trade, both of which have huge roles in the implementation of tobacco control laws.

“The Davao City government was a trailblazer in tobacco control. The anti-smoking ordinance was already in existence even before the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003 came into effect. The implementation of the anti-smoking policy was sterling. All these show that President-elect Duterte is very strong on tobacco control. He consistently refused to associate his government with and extend undue favours to tobacco companies. Practicing that kind of detachment from the tobacco industry is in accord with the requirement of the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC),” said Dr. Daniel Tan, President of HealthJustice Philippines.

The WHO FCTC, which was ratified by the Philippines in June 2005, mandates that “In setting and implementing their public health policies with respect to tobacco control, Parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law.” The WHO also takes cognizance of the tobacco industry’s habitual use of massive resources to influence governments to yield to its interests. “The tobacco industry has used its economic power, lobbying and marketing machinery, and manipulation of the media to discredit scientific research and influence governments in order to propagate the sale and distribution of its deadly product,” the WHO stated in its website.

“Duterte should now appoint to the Health and Trade posts only those leaders who have never been and will never be associated with the tobacco industry,” Dr. Tan emphasized.

Edeliza Hernandez, Executive Director of the Medical Action Group, attested that “Philippines, as a Party to the WHO FCTC, is obligated to keep the government free from the influence of the tobacco industry. That is necessary in order to protect tobacco control laws and measures from being diluted and violated by the tobacco industry.”

Princess Nemenzo, National Coordinator of WomanHealth Philippines, said that “240 Filipinos die every day due to smoking-related diseases. We need leaders who will do something about it and prioritize it over the commercial interests of the tobacco industry. Duterte should therefore choose leaders who have always sided the Filipino people in this ongoing battle between the tobacco industry’s commercial interests and our right to a safe, healthy and smoke-free environment.”