HEALTHJUSTICE, a public-health policy think tank, on Friday assailed the expansion of a tobacco company in Misamis Oriental, saying that it goes against the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) and Republic Act 10351, or the “sin” tax law, mandating the gradual shift of tobacco farmers to an alternative livelihood and the provision of financial assistance for such purpose.
Irene Reyes, managing director of HealthJustice, said “the company’s expansion is a direct attack on the promotion of a different livelihood for local tobacco farmers. It serves only to perpetuate the tobacco industry, which profits from the addiction of Filipinos.”
A tobacco company recently announced its $50-million investment in tobacco plantations in Claveria, Misamis Oriental.
The WHO FCTC, to which the Philippines is a signatory, obligates the signatories to promote alternative livelihood for tobacco workers, growers and sellers. Tobacco farming does not only present health risks and negative economic and social impacts to farmers, it also causes damage to the environment.
Section 8 of the sin-tax law provides that 15 percent of incremental revenues collected from tobacco taxes will be “utilized for programs to promote economically viable alternatives for tobacco farmers and workers.” The objective is to gradually shift to alternative livelihood, as countries around the world address the harmful consequences of tobacco products.
The National Tobacco Administration (NTA) is supporting the company’s plans and had conducted a survey that showed most farmers in Claveria are willing to shift to tobacco farming to avail themselves of its production subsidy.
HealthJustice said that this is a clear policy incoherence as the NTA should be one with the government in implementing the FCTC.
“The growth of the tobacco industry does not translate into the growth of the economy. The truth is only the tobacco industry profits from this. Behind a cigarette company’s expansion is a plan to get as many people addicted to smoking, trapping families in endless cycle of poverty and killing Filipinos,” Reyes added.