HealthJustice (HJ) disputes the claim of Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corporation (PMFTC) that there is a need for the government authorities to cooperate with tobacco manufacturers in addressing illicit tobacco trade issues.
Irene Reyes, Managing Director of HealthJustice says, “There is a clear conflict of interest to allow tobacco companies to participate in government measures that are designed primarily to regulate them. This is also a violation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).” Article 5.3 of the FCTC and its Guidelines explicitly states that there is a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry’s interests and public health policy interests.
Parties are urged to protect the formulation and implementation of public health policies for tobacco control from the tobacco industry to the greatest extent possible. The FCTC also states that the Parties should reject any partnerships with the tobacco industry.
PMFTC has continuously cited a report done by the International Tax and Investment Center (ITIC) and Oxford Economics in claiming that the government lost billions in revenue due to illicit tobacco trade. The said report has been debunked by Southeast Asian Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) for its flawed methodology and skewed results favoring the tobacco companies’ positions.
ITIC’s independence to conduct the study was also seriously questioned given that its sponsors include leading transnational tobacco companies and Philip Morris International commissioned the study. “It’s really appalling how tobacco companies keep using the flawed report, funded by Philip Morris International, to recommend measures that will be favorable to them.
We must keep in mind that these companies want to protect their own interests in promoting deadly products, which runs counter to the government’s mandate to protect the life and health of its people,” Atty. Reyes added.
The government meanwhile has started its own system to address illicit tobacco trade.
The Bureau of Internal Revenue has announced the implementation of the Internal Revenue Stamps Integrated System (IRSIS) project which will have a pilot run this month. Under the system, cigarette manufacturers will need certification that they have paid due taxes before they can be provided with stamps required in all cigarette packs released to the market. Reyes said, “We commend the government in its initiative to enforce a tax stamp system to counter illicit cigarette trade.
We hope that the government will not give in to pressure and continue to keep tobacco companies’ hands off the implementation of effective tobacco control measures.”