Amidst contrasting opinions regarding the fate of the sin tax bill in the Senate, an increasing number of non-government organizations are making a definitive stand on the tobacco issue: “There are no healthy relationships where the tobacco industry is concerned,” they say in a strongly worded manifesto entitled “True Progress is Tobacco-Free”; it that has been signed by over 50 developmental NGOs coming from different sectors of Philippine society.
HealthJustice, New Vois Association of the Philippines, and the Philippine Cancer Society are among the developmental NGOs that have signed a manifesto calling for vigilance against tobacco industry interference, the term embodying strategies tobacco companies use to undermine public health. In particular, the groups decry tobacco industry attempts to improve their image through so-called “social responsibility projects” and partnerships with NGOs to increase legitimacy and improve public perception.
“Smoking is not just the leading cause of preventable death world-wide – it is the most preventable cause of cancer around the world,” said Romeo Marcaida, head of the Patient Navigation Program of the Philippine Cancer Society. “In our country alone it claims so many Filipino lives daily. We cannot afford to just do our work and tolerate their presence; we have to take active steps to protect ourselves from them.”
“The tobacco industry is the true cancer in our society today,” said Emer Rojas, President of New Vois Association of the Philippines, a group made up of throat cancer victims and survivors. “Many of our members attribute their cancer to smoking, because a lot of us came from a time when smoking was made out to be harmless. Now we know better. We will fight so that no one else gets sick because of these lies.”
“True progress is tobacco-free,” said Irene Reyes, Managing Director of HealthJustice, a public health policy NGO. “Our country is sick because of tobacco industry interference, and we cannot get better unless we address it. Our future relies on our ability to protect ourselves from tobacco interests – the health of our people, the quality of our environment, and the speed of our progress depends on it.”
The manifesto is centered around Article 5.3 of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which highlights the irreconcilable conflict between public health policy and tobacco industry interests. The “True Progress is Tobacco-Free” Manifesto will be launched through a forum celebrating the trailblazing participants. It will be held at the Shangrila Plaza Cineplex 4 this September 17, 2012, from 1:00 – 5:00 PM. Speakers for the event come from leading organizations such as Human Nature, Save Philippine Seas, and Sex and Sensibilities, among others.