By Philip C. Tubeza
MANILA, Philippines—Health advocates on Friday expressed concern over the decision of British American Tobacco (BAT) to invest $200 million in the Philippines.
Engineer Elmer Rojas, president of the cancer survivor group New Vois Association of the Philippines, said the money could be used to promote cigarette smoking in the country.
“It’s always good news to hear that foreign companies are interested in investing in the country, but not when it comes from an industry that sells poison for profit.” Rojas said in a statement.
“We have been working for sin tax reform because we know how it can improve and protect the right to health. When companies like BAT use the measure to their advantage, our government must have a back-up plan for health to counter the $200-million plan to invest in the country.” he added.
BAT, a British multinational tobacco company headquartered in London, is the world’s second-largest tobacco company by sales (after Philip Morris International).
Its four largest-selling brands are Dunhill, Lucky Strike, Kent and Pall Mall, with others including Kool, Benson & Hedges and Rothmans.
Lawyer Irene Reyes, director of HealthJustice Philippines, said that the public should “expect more aggressive marketing strategies from the tobacco industry as the main players compete for the share of the Philippine market.