Seoul, Korea. 13 November 2012 — The Philippines breaks its negative record with the local and international health community for its perceived support of the tobacco industry. Today, the prestigious Orchid Award was given to the Philippines for excluding the National Tobacco Administration (NTA) from the official delegation to the 5th Conference of Parties (COP5) to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), which opened today in Seoul, Korea.
“This is a remarkable moment in the history of public health. We salute the President, the Department of Health and Civil Service Commission for upholding our obligations to WHO FCTC,” says HealthJustice Managing Director Atty. Irene Reyes.
In 2010, the Philippines was bestowed the shameful Dirty Ashtray Award for doing exactly the opposite: the Philippine delegation mouthed pro-tobacco industry interests at the COP4 in Uruguay. Earlier this year, Corporate Accountability International also selected the Philippine government’s Inter-agency Committee on Tobacco (IAC-T) to receive its infamous “Marlboro Man Award”, saying that the the tobacco industry’s presence in the IAC-T through the Philippine Tobacco Institute’s membership in the same compromised the committee’s obligation to protect against the harms of tobacco.
More affiliates of tobacco industry denied
The Conference of Parties is firm on ensuring that tobacco industry representatives are kept at a safe distance. INTERPOL, the world’s largest police organization, was refused observer status at the COP5 due to reports that it received 15M USD from Philip Morris International. INTERPOL has a strong interest and potential contribution in the enforcement of smuggling measures.
“These are necessary steps to ensure that the Illicit Trade Protocol which has just been adopted is safeguarded against tobacco industry interference,” adds Reyes.
Locally, the Bureau of Customs refused to renew its partnership agreement with Philip Morris in accordance with a 2010 joint memorandum circular issued by the Civil Service Commission and the Department of Health to protect the bureaucracy from industry interference.
International health community praises the Philippines
“We are hopeful to see the Philippines making great strides towards advancing public health as a priority. This is a true win for the Filipino people and for civil society who can look to a government that now recognizes that the preservation of health far outweighs any profit that the tobacco industry could provide,” says John Stewart, Challenge Big Tobacco Campaign Director at Corporate Accountability International.
While congratulating the Philippine delegation for ensuring a tobacco industry-free team to the COP5, SEATCA Director Bungon Ritthipakdee stressed that this should serve as a good practice for other Philippine officials and policymakers to emulate.
“Government officials and and policymakers have the power to stop tobacco industry interference in their hands. As long as government consistently rejects the tobacco industry in activities and events such as attendance to the COP, this sends a a very strong signal that we are serious in halting their interference and manipulative tactics, Ritthipakdee added.
*A link to the FCA’s Media Bulletin wherein the Award was announced may be found here: