400 nursing moms gather in Taguig to donate breast milk for ‘Taal babies’

An estimated 400 nursing mothers have come together in Taguig City on Thursday to donate breast milk for babies affected by the Taal Volcano eruption.

Senator Pia S. Cayetano, in partnership with the Human Milk Bank of Taguig City, conducted a day-long breast milk letting event on January 23 at the Lakeshore Tent in Lower Bicutan, Taguig.

The event dubbed, “Breast Milk Ko, Alay Ko,” was made open to all volunteer breastfeeding mothers, including residents and non-residents of the city.

The donated milk will be stored and processed by the Taguig City Human Milk Bank, and delivered to different evacuation centers in the province of Batangas.

“The essence of this is mothers helping other mothers,” Cayetano said during an ambush interview with media on the sidelines of the event.

The milk letting activity is in response to the appeal of the Batangas provincial government for breast milk donations for families who have been displaced by Taal’s eruption. It also follows the Department of Health (DOH) advisory encouraging breast milk donations for areas affected by the disaster.

“Nobody will dispute that breast milk is best for babies. But what do we do when, for some reason, a mother cannot provide that for her baby? There are moms who breastfeed but during a state of stress, their milk supply gets affected. That’s why we are trying to help out to those in need,” the senator explained.

“That is my challenge for all nursing mothers in Taguig and in other places, I hope they can also contribute. For those who have reached out and expressed interest to donate, we will assist. If we can collect those milk from different mothers, we will do so,” she added.

Meanwhile, the senator also pointed out that all donated breast milk collected from the event will be properly pasteurized to ensure that it is safe and clean.

“We want to be sure that the donated breast milk will be in good condition for the babies who will receive them,” Cayetano noted.

A breastfeeding advocate, the senator authored the Expanded Breastfeeding Act (RA 10028), which encourages health institutions to establish human milk banks.

Cayetano also authored the Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act  (RA 10821), which requires breastfeeding areas to be set up in evacuation centers to enable mothers to feed their babies in private.

“I have been a breastfeeding advocate for over 10 years now. I did my very first milk bank activity in Makati, and we’ve done it in Cebu and other places, including Taguig. I also personally breastfed my children,” the senator shared.

Furthermore, she encouraged other local government units (LGUs) in the country to initiate their own breast milk letting activities for the benefit of mothers who cannot nurse their children.

“It would also be great for other LGUs to have similar activities like this. Even if there are no calamities, breast milk letting remains a good practice,” she said. #

Taguig City moms step up and respond to the call to donate breast milk for mothers and babies displaced by the Taal volcano eruption.
“The essence of this is mothers helping other mothers.” – Sen Pia Cayetano
Breastfeeding advocates: Senator Pia S. Cayetano and Taguig Representative Lani Cayetano with two nursing moms who volunteered for the breast milk-letting event for evacuees in Batangas.

Pia welcomes President’s signing of the Sin Tax Law

We welcome President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s recent signing of the Sin Tax Reform Law, which raises the excise taxes imposed on alcohol and e-cigarette products.
The enactment of this measure is a manifestation of the administration’s full commitment to its mandate of protecting public health and welfare.
As Chairperson of the Ways and Means Committee, I had pushed for substantially higher sin tax rates under my sponsored Senate bill, to be able to meet the funding requirements for universal health care and to effectively deter the consumption of these harmful products.
Nonetheless, I remain confident that the law’s passage is a good step forward to discourage Filipinos, especially the youth, from taking up dangerous vices, thereby guiding them towards making healthier lifestyle choices.
Moreover, the revenues to be collected from this measure will go a long way in ensuring our people’s access to free and quality health care services. I thank our colleagues in the DOH and DOF, Congress, and pro-health allies for contributing to this landmark legislation. #
Cayetano: The law’s passage is a step forward to discourage Filipinos, especially the youth, from taking up dangerous vices, including drinking and vaping.

Pia to industries: Make eco-friendly alternatives available to consumers

Senator Pia S. Cayetano today said industries in the country should be persuaded to innovate into producing more eco-friendly products and packaging to encourage sustainable consumption among consumers, and help achieve the country’s zero waste goals.

Such is the main takeaway of Cayetano, chair of the Senate Committee on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Innovation, and Futures Thinking, from the panel’s third public hearing on Wednesday (January 22).

Following through on the committee’s earlier hearing that focused on Goal 12 of the SDGs, Cayetano led another discussion with government agencies and civil society members to track the country’s action plan towards sustainable consumption and production.

Goal 12 of the SDGs calls on nations to ensure sustainable consumption and production (SCP) patterns, particularly through the promotion of consumer information and education for sustainable development and lifestyles.

Also discussed in the hearing were the best practices being implemented towards SCP at the national and the local level.

While stressing the importance of influencing consumer behavior to encourage waste reduction, Cayetano said industry manufacturers carry the bigger responsibility of shifting towards more sustainable and eco-friendly alternatives for their products.

“How do we push producers to innovate? That’s one of the challenges we have. If we want citizens to shift to more sustainable products, how can they [do so] if they are [presented] with [products that] are not sustainable?” she pointed out.

“Many young people are so game to embrace new sustainable practices. But what kind of change will we make if the producers themselves refuse to adjust their mindset,” she added.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) also cited during the hearing that a change in the behavior of both consumers and producers is necessary for sustainable waste reduction. This, according to the agency, can be done by conducting public education campaigns on SCP.

In addition, Cayetano stressed the importance of codifying and harmonizing the best practices towards SCP, following the lead of local communities that are already implementing sound policies on sustainability.

“We have isolated provisions on the efficient use of resources per area of life; but as regulators and lawmakers, we are having difficulty following up and assessing those provisions. It’s difficult to look at the overall picture because [our plans] are not yet harmonized. Hopefully, the cities and communities can help us put it all together,” the senator said.

“I also hope that our committee can make it easy to codify these best practices towards SCP, which other communities can follow and prioritize,” she added, as she expressed support for NEDA’s intention to come up with a budget codification for certain priority SDGs in the next six months.

Furthermore, the concept of zero waste management was also among the highlights of the panels’ discussion on SCP.

Representatives from the Mother Earth Foundation and Ecowaste Coalition particularly stressed that achieving zero waste requires community responsibility – through reducing, reusing, recycling, and composting wastes – as well as industrial responsibility – through re-designing and shifting into alternative, sustainable products.

Cauayan, Isabela Mayor Bernard Dy was also invited as a resource person in the hearing, where he shared the city’s best practices on localizing SDGs through various sustainable initiatives like the Cauayan City Food Bank and the conceptualization of e-vehicles in their community, among others.#

Sen. Pia S. Cayetano leads the Senate Committee on SDGs, Innovation, and Futures Thinking’s third public discussion on the country’s action plan towards sustainable consumption and production, which forms part of the Philippines’ commitment to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

 

Senator Pia S. Cayetano with Mayor Bernard Dy, who has been acknowledged for his innovative efforts to integrate the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the programs of the local government of Cauayan City, Isabela.
Senator Pia S. Cayetano receives a copy of ‘The Zero Waste Solution’ book from the author himself, renowned sustainable communities advocate, Prof. Paul Connett.

Sin tax to go a ‘long way’ in protecting people’s health, welfare

Speech of Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Senator Pia S. Cayetano on the Bicameral Conference Committee Report on Sin Tax

Mr. President, as Chairperson of the Senate contingent to the bicameral conference committee that discussed the proposed sin tax reform measure, I now have the privilege to report to you the approved bicam version of our bill.

These are now the rates that the bicam committee adopted:

For fermented liquor, the specific tax rates will be raised to P35 in 2020, P37 in 2021, P39 in 2022, P41 in 2023, and P43 in 2024, with a 6 percent indexation in the following years.

For distilled spirits, the specific tax rates will be raised to P42 in 2020, P47 in 2021, P52 in 2022, P59 in 2023, and P66 in 2024, with a 6 percent indexation in the following years. There will also be an ad valorem tax rate of 22 percent beginning next year.

For sparkling and still wines, the fixed tax rate will be P50, with a 6 percent indexation in the following years.

For heated tobacco products or HTPs, the tax rate will be P25 in 2020, P27.50 in 2021, P30 in 2022, and P32.50 in 2023, with a 5 percent indexation in the following years.

For salt nicotine, the tax rate will be P37 in 2020, P42 in 2021, P47 in 2022, P52 in 2023, with a 5 percent indexation in the following years.

For free base vape products, the tax rate will be P45 in 2020, P50 in 2021, P55 in 2022, P60 in 2023, with a 5 percent indexation in the following years.

These rates are expected to generate P22.2 billion worth of revenues from alcohol and e-cigs during the first year of implementation, minus the VAT exemption on specific prescription medicines (P5.2 billion), which will bring the net incremental revenues from the measure to P17.1 billion.

Mr. President, I would like to put on record that as Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, I had pushed for substantially higher sin tax rates under our Committee Report to meet the funding requirements for universal health care. Moreover, it is my firm belief that taxation can be an effective tool to deter the consumption of products that are deemed harmful to our people’s health. All this, while balancing the interests of the various industries involved.

But we also recognize that as a bicameral body, Congress works on the principles of fair, democratic deliberations and consensus building. Having said this, I thank my fellow legislators for their input and cooperation, which will now pave the way for the ratification of this meaningful measure. I remain confident that, albeit lower than what we originally proposed, the revenues to be generated under this sin tax measure would go a long way in protecting our people’s health and welfare.

Note: As manifested on the floor during Wednesday’s session (Dec. 18), the speech was not read by Senator Cayetano and was inserted into the Senate records.

Senate Ways and Means Chair Pia Cayetano confers with members of the House panel during the bicameral conference meeting on the Sin Tax Bill. (L-R) Deputy Speaker (DS) Deogracias Victor Savellano, DS LRay Villafuerte, Rep. Jack Duavit, Rep. Estrellita Suansing, and House Ways and Means Chair Joey Salceda.
Tax sin products for people’s health: Senator Pia S. Cayetano with fellow bicam panel members Sen. Francis ‘Tol’ Tolentino and Sen. Aquilino ‘Koko’ Pimentel.
Senate ways and means committee chair Pia Cayetano greets finance secretary Sonny Dominguez, who made a surprise visit at the bicam meeting and watched the proceedings from the sidelines.
Bicam bill is signed! (L-R, 1st row) Deputy Speaker (DS) Deogracias Victor Savellano, DS Raneo Abu, Sen. Francis Tolentino, Senate WAM Chair Pia S. Cayetano, House WAM Chair Joey Salceda, Rep. Sharon Guarin (L-R, 2nd row) Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, Rep. Estrellita Suansing, Sen. Ronald ‘Bato’ Dela Rosa (partly hidden), Sen. Imee Marcos, Sen. Aquilino ‘Koko’ Pimentel, Rep. Jose Antonio Alvarado, DS LRay Villafuerte, Rep. Sheena Tan, Rep. Jack Duavit, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, and Rep. Teodorico Jaresco, Jr.
Standing tall: Joint press conference by Senator Pia S. Cayetano and Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, Ways and Means chair of the Senate and House, respectively, to announce the bicam approval of the sin tax bill.
Hands-on: Senator Pia Cayetano watches as Senate plenary pages facilitate the signing of the bicam committee report on the sin tax bill among the senators.
Light moment with Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon. Both senators were instrumental in the passage of the 2012 Sin Tax Bill (RA 10351).
Despite lower-than-desired rates, Senator Pia Cayetano believes that the 2019 sin tax measure would still go a ‘long way’ in protecting people’s heath and welfare.

Bicam approves Sin Tax Bill

The Sin Tax Bill has moved a step forward towards becoming a law.

Members of the joint panel of the Senate and the House of Representatives approved this afternoon the bicameral conference committee report reconciling the disagreeing provisions of the sin tax bill, which seeks to raise excise taxes on alcohol and e-cigarette products in the country beginning January 1, 2020.

Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Pia S. Cayetano, along with House Ways and Means Committee Chair and Albay Representative Jose Ma. Clemente S. Salceda, led the bicam discussions held in the Senate on Wednesday that lasted for more than four hours.

Based on estimates of the Department of Finance (DoF), the approved bicam version will generate P22.2 billion in incremental revenues from alcohol and e-cigs during the first year of implementation. But due to an amended provision exempting specific prescription medicines from value added tax (VAT), revenues from the measure will decrease by P5.2 billion, for a total of P17.1 billion worth of net incremental revenues for 2020.

Earmarking of revenues from higher sin taxes would be undertaken as follows: 60 percent will go to the Universal Health Care (UHC) program, 20 percent to the Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP) of the Department of Health, and the remaining 20 percent to programs seeking to attain the country’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The tax rates approved by the bicam panel are the following:

– Fermented Liquor (specific tax rate): P35 in 2020, P37 in 2021, P39 in 2022, P41 in 2023, and P43 in 2024, with a 6 percent indexation thereafter.

– Distilled Spirits (specific tax rate with 22 percent ad valorem tax): P42 in 2020, P47 in 2021, P52 in 2022, P59 in 2023, and P66 in 2024, with a 6 percent indexation thereafter.

– Sparkling and still wines (specific tax rate):  P50 in 2020, with a 6 percent indexation thereafter.

– Heated Tobacco Products or HTPs (specific tax rate): P25 in 2020, P27.50 in 2021, P30 in 2022, and P32.50 in 2023, with a 5 percent indexation thereafter

– Salt Nicotine (specific tax rate): P37 in 2020, P42 in 2021, P47 in 2022, P52 in 2023, with a 5 percent indexation thereafter

– Free Base (specific tax rate): P45 in 2020, P50 in 2021, P55 in 2022, P60 in 2023, with a 5 percent indexation thereafter

For her part, Cayetano admitted that she would have preferred the higher tax rates originally proposed under Senate Bill No. 1074. Nevertheless, the ways and means committee chair stressed that she respects the democratic deliberations that happened during the bicam, which paved the way for the bill’s approval.

“As a health advocate… I have two roles: increasing the tax for purposes of UHC [and using taxation] as a deterrent to the consumption of a product that is not healthy… I had hoped [for higher tax rates], but that is how democracy works, that is how we work as a bicameral house, so the figures we have are what they are and they will still go a long way,” the senator said.

“At the end of the day, I pushed [for this measure] until the very end. Pagkatapos nun, move on na. [We will] try to do a better job next time, [and] try to find additional sources,” she added.

“I am the kind of person who really sets my standards high. I really wanted to find enough funding to continually support UHC and to use the price imposed on sin products, whether it’s alcohol, ecig, or HTP, as a deterrent,” she explained.

“My next goal will be to really have advocacies and health campaigns to help people switch to healthier alternatives, because we don’t want young people, or even not so young [ones], to become addicted to a new bad habit,” she continued.

Senate members of the bicam panel included Senators Imee Marcos, Ronald Dela Rosa, Francis Tolentino, Koko Pimentel, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, and President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto.

They were joined by their House counterparts, including Deputy Speakers LRay Villafuerte, Raneo Abu, and Deogracias Victor Savellano, and Representatives Estrellita Suansing, Jack Duavit, Sheena Tan, Sharon Garin, Teodorico Haresco Jr.,  and Jose Antonio Alvarado. #

Senator Pia Cayetano and Albay Representative Joey Salceda, ways and means committee chairpersons of the Senate and House, respectively, hold a media briefing following the bicam approval of the Sin Tax Bill.
Members of the bicameral conference committee of the Senate and the House of Representatives, following their approval of the final version of the sin tax bill on Wednesday (December 18).
Senate Ways and Means Chair Pia Cayetano stresses a point during the bicameral conference committee meeting on Wednesday to reconcile disagreeing provisions of the Sin Tax Bill.

Pia on SEA Games triumph: ‘We won as one!’

The greatest takeaway from the country’s successful hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, according to Senator Pia Cayetano, was the opportunity to showcase the skill and ability of Filipino athletes to win as one – not just before their home crowd but to the entire region.

The senator was among the thousands of spectators who flocked to the New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac, on Wednesday night (December 11) to witness the grand closing ceremony of what has been described as the “biggest” SEA Games to date.

“I cannot be any prouder. If I was an athlete, wala na akong hihingin pa,” the former national volleyball athlete and UAAP champion said.

“I thank the volunteers, the organizers, including my brother, Alan, and his team,” Cayetano said, referring to her younger brother, House Speaker and Philippine SEA Games Organizational Committee (PHISGOC) Chair Alan Peter Cayetano.

“I think they did an amazing job. People from the audience and our guests from other countries were all telling me na pang world-class talaga,” she shared in an ambush interview on the sidelines of the event.

Cayetano stressed that the Philippines’ claiming  of the overall championship was made possible by the government’s readiness to invest in sports development, particularly in building new world-class facilities in New Clark City; refurbishing old ones such as the 84-year-old Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Manila and the Philsports Arena in Pasig City; and showcasing other areas for sports tourism, including Subic and Clark in Central Luzon, La Union in Northern Luzon, and Biñan City and Tagaytay City in Southern Tagalog, among others.

In addition, she noted that more support was given by the government to Filipino athletes in terms of subsidies, training, exposure, and cash rewards and recognition, particularly from President Rodrigo Duterte himself.

“That’s really what we want: to give our athletes world-class facilities; show the whole world that the Philippines has arrived; and that we can elevate whatever we do to the next highest level,” she said.

Meanwhile, the senator likewise welcomed the positive feedback from the next SEA Games host, Vietnam, whose sports officials were reported to have told media that it would be a challenge for them to duplicate the quality and magnitude of this year’s hosting.

“Sabi naman ni Alan, he’s even willing to go [to Vietnam] and share whatever knowledge he has gained. Though this [hosting] was not easy, and it’s never perfect, we still won as one,” Cayetano stressed.

“Ang pananaw ni Alan dito ay magtulong-tulong tayo. Kanya-kanya tayong strength and we want to help our neighbor and friend [Vietnam] to also have a successful hosting of the 31st SEA Games in 2021,” she concluded. #

Senator Pia S. Cayetano hugs her younger brother, House Speaker and PHISGOC Chair Alan Peter Cayetano, following the closing ceremony on Wednesday night (December 11) that capped the country’s successful staging of the 30th Southeast Asian Games.

Pinoy athletes all praises for New Clark City sports facilities

World-class!

This sums up what two Filipino athletes who won gold in the ongoing Southeast Asian (SEA) Games think about the country’s newly built sports facilities in New Clark City (NCC) in Capas, Tarlac.

Olympics-bound pole vaulter EJ Obiena and long-distance runner Christine Hallasgo were all praises for the sprawling sports complex, which is hosting athletics and swimming events in the biennial games that will run until Wednesday, December 11. It will also be the venue for the closing ceremonies of what has been described as the biggest SEA Games to date.

Inside the complex sits the 14,000-meter Athletics Stadium, which has been given Class 1 Certification by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

The NCC sports complex likewise features the 2,000-seating capacity Aquatics Center, which has likewise been certified by the world aquatics governing body, Fédération Internationale De Natation (FINA) as fully compliant with global standards.

Meanwhile, athletes from the 11-nation games are also being given proper accommodations at the 2,100-bed Athletes’ Village.

“Masaya po ako na meron na po tayong [world-class sports facilities] sa Pilipinas kasi malaking tulong po siya sa aming mga atleta,” said women’s marathon gold medalist Hallasgo in a Facebook video posted by former national athlete and now Senator Pia Cayetano.

“Ang mga facilities, lalong lalo na ang [track] oval, ang standard niya ay parang sa ibang bansa. Nakaka-inspire po mag-training kapag ang mga ginagamit namin na equipment ay world-class,” she added.

Men’s pole vault gold medalist and new SEA Games record holder  EJ Obiena also had great things to say about the country’s new sports facilities.

“First time ko pong makakita ng indoor track in Southeast Asia… It’s really a pride and honor to have these facilities in the country,” he said in the same video posted by Cayetano.

Obiena, who is set to represent the country in the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics, has had the opportunity to train with the best coaches in modern sports facilities in Europe.

When asked how well our own facilities compared with the stadiums he trained and competed in abroad, Obiena replied:  “It’s world-class, like the best I’ve seen and played in in Europe. Now I can tell my friends to come and train with me!”

Cayetano, for her part, stressed the importance of sustaining government support for all Filipino athletes beyond this year’s hosting of the SEA Games.

“People forget that you are athletes 365 days a year. All-out support is really required all year round. Now, you have these training grounds available for you throughout the year,” she told Obiena and Hallasgo.

“I commit to you that I will continue to work with our decision-makers to find more ways to support our country’s athletes. Personally, that would also be a dream come true for me,” added Cayetano, who herself is a former national volleyball player.

The senator is among the authors and co-sponsors of Senate Bill No. 1086 or the ‘Philippine High School for Sports (PHSS) Act,’ which seeks to establish a national academy for sports in the country that can train talented young athletes in their respective sports while still allowing them to pursue other educational tracks.

“We need to insist that sports is a priority [and] send a strong message to decision-makers, including my fellow legislators, [to] support our athletes and put in the funding… I hope that our fellow Filipinos also rally behind this initiative because I am such a believer of sports changing lives,” Cayetano stressed. #

SEA Games women’s marathon gold medalist Christine Hallasgo: “Masaya po ako na meron na tayong [world-class sports facilities] sa Pilipinas… malaking tulong po siya sa aming mga atleta.”
With SEA Games pole vault gold medalist EJ Obiena and his father and coach, Emerson Obiena, a former national athlete who also won medals for the Philippines in pole vault.

PH hosting of SEA Games an “amazing decision”

Take it from former national volleyball player and Senator Pia Cayetano – the Philippines made an “amazing decision” to host the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games this year as it gave national athletes the chance to shine in their own country before their fellow Filipinos.

The senator has often been seen watching the games from the audience stands, cheering for Filipino athletes in various sports competitions, including football,  gymnastics, and recently, tennis, where she watched the Filipino duo of Francis Niño Alcantara and Jeson Patrombon overwhelm their Indonesian counterparts in the men’s doubles quarterfinals on Thursday.
(Note: Alcantara and Patrombon would eventually win the gold medal in the all-Filipino men’s doubles finals which pitted them against the tandem of Treat Huey and Ruben Gonzales, Jr.)
Francis ‘Nino’ Alcantara and Jeson Patrombon would eventually take the SEA Games gold in men’s tennis doubles.
“I am really making an effort to go to as many [SEA Games events] as I can. I have known Niño [Alcantara] since he was a teenager [and when] he wasn’t even in college yet,” shared Cayetano, who once played for the national women’s volleyball team and the University of the Philippines Lady Maroons squad that won the UAAP title during the 1982-1983 season.
The senator expressed her elation over the remarkable performances of Filipino athletes during this year’s SEA Games, earning for the country a total of 155 medals as of Friday afternoon.
As a former student-athlete, Cayetano stressed the need for government to continue providing proper funding and support for the development of Philippine sports and our athletes’ training for regional and international competitions.
“These are hard-earned gold, silver, and bronze medals that our athletes were able to earn [in the SEA Games]. And I hope that the funding and support continue even in the next SEA Games that will not be held here in the Philippines,” she stressed.
Asked about her thoughts on the country’s hosting of the biggest SEA Games to date, the senator said: “The people will see for themselves that we made an amazing decision to host it here. I’d like to believe that this is a legacy that we will leave behind.”
In the Senate, Cayetano authored and co-sponsored Senate Bill No. 1086 or the ‘Philippine High School for Sports (PHSS) Act,’ which seeks to establish a national academy for sports in the country that can train talented young athletes in their respective sports while still allowing them to pursue other educational tracks. #
Sen Pia Cayetano comforting members of the U-22 Azkals after the team narrowly made the semi-finals in men’s football.
At the victory ceremonies topped by Carlos Edriel Yulo, who bagged a total of 2 golds and 5 silvers in men’s gymnastics.

Pia: “We should persevere to build a nation of champions”

Sen. Pia Cayetano’s statement on gov’t funding for the 30th SEA Games

My brother Alan Peter Cayetano, who is currently the Speaker of the House, took on the job as Chair of the organizing committee of the Southeast Asian Games when he was still DFA Secretary. He did not have to, but he did it because he believed that our athletes should have a chance to shine in our own country and the SEA Games.

Last Tuesday, he voluntarily appeared before the Senate, something which any Speaker of the House has never done before. He set aside protocol because he believed it was more important to shed light on the credibility of the SEA Games preparation. Thus, his appearance as a resource person during the Senate’s deliberation of the budget of the Philippine Sports Commission in connection with the SEA Games.

He explained how the government, through the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), took on the task of building a world-class Sports Stadium that is now in New Clark City. It has a competition track oval with all the bleachers around it. Outside the stadium there is a warm-up track and inside the stadium is another short track for the final warm-up.

This Sports Stadium has been the training ground of the men’s triathlon and the national track and field team.

When we first brought the national track team there, I ran with them. Some of them were crying and saying that they never dreamed of seeing something like this ever built for them. The Rizal Memorial Stadium is 84 years old!

There is also the internationally certified Aquatics Center, with a main competition 10-lane, 50-meter pool; a 50-meter, 8-lane warm-up pool; and a dive pool.

All of these are requirements to get a Class 1 certification.  This means we can now host events here for our athletes as qualifiers for the big  international events.

Apart from having world-class sports facilities, the New Clark City has also been the home of our triathletes for the past months. The Athletes’ Village located in the NCC are like spartan hotels.

In the Senate, we are in the process of passing a law creating the Philippine High School for Sports that will also be housed in the New Clark City.

This entire complex is designed by Budji Royal. The cauldron, which is something other countries have also put up, is an artistic creation of National Artist Francisco Mañosa. It is cheaper than the cauldrons made by Singapore and Malaysia, the last two SEA Games hosts. In fact, as Speaker Alan mentioned, we are spending much less than these two countries did for the hosting of the events.

Also, it bears pointing out that as a responsible member of the world community, we host and participate in many international events such as the hosting of the 2015 APEC and the ASEAN’s 50th anniversary in 2017.  Both cost billions of pesos. Yet it was clear to us that there were tangible and intangible benefits that our country could derive from such events.

The SEA Games will deliver as much and more. Fifty (50) years hence, our athletes and young people will continue to enjoy these  facilities.

When  it comes to the training budget, that is different from the construction and hosting. That is the lookout of Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and the various National Sports Associations (NSA). They receive funding from the national government and PAGCOR. There are also contributions from the private sector, which is common in many countries.

As a former national athlete,  I know that it is not cheap to train! Aside from training with good coaches and training facilities, our elite athletes need nutritious food supplements, strength and conditioning coaches, sports psychologists, nutritionists, physical therapists, and more! And we cannot sacrifice our athletes’ training/living needs.

I have my own issues with PSC and some NSAs on the funding of athletes’ training, but I have unceasingly pushed and intervened for athletes over the years and remain committed to doing this, including grassroots programs I’ve done throughout the years through my Gabriel’s Symphony Foundation and Pinay in Action initiatives.

As Speaker of the House, Alan also wants to spread grassroots programs and construct more sports facilities all over the country.

We will make this happen. Just like a champion is not made overnight, we will persevere and build a nation of champions.#

Senator and triathlete Pia Cayetano trains with members of the Philippine national triathlon pool at the Athletics Stadium in New Clark City.
Senator Pia Cayetano trains with members of the national heptathlon team at the indoor warm-up track of the New Clark City Athletics Stadium.

 

Pia: My work continues to tax e-cigarettes for public health

Transcript of interview with Senator Pia Cayetano on President Duterte’s directive to ‘ban’ e-cigarettes 

Question (Q): What happens to the sin tax bill following the order of the President to ban vapes?

 

Sen. Pia: The way I look at it is my work continues. Because our President has really just expressed – from my understanding – his disappointment and exasperation with the e-cig industry. And that’s why he made that statement na “i-ban na yan.”

 

Because actually, all this time, he was waiting for all of us to do our job. And my job is to use taxation as a tool to protect the citizens, and of course, there’s also a fundraising measure as far as DOF is concerned.

 

But we have to understand the background. The background is, DOH issued an Administrative Order regulating e-cigarettes. And they said it in my hearing, they said it in consultations na ayaw ng mga industry ang AO na yan. The industry players said that they were not happy with that AO.

 

In fairness, there were also some industry players who said that they are happy to be regulated. Meanwhile, some of these people went ahead and filed cases to prevent FDA and DOH to regulate them. And these courts issued a TRO. So ngayon, we have products that are clearly harmful to the public [that are not being regulated]. We can debate and we can discuss it longer. But there is no doubt. I don’t know anyone in the business who will say safe na safe ito. There are health hazards there. And they are unregulated. Eh ‘di nabwisit si Presidente, so ang basa ko sa kanya, “Ah ganun ha? Ayaw niyo magpa-regulate, i-ban ko na lang kayo.”

 

And that’s how I feel also. Ayaw niyo magpa-regulate? Eh ‘di lumabas na kayo sa bansang ito. We’re willing to, and that was the direction that I was going. Taxation to me is just a means, a tool to help make these products that are harmful less accessible to the vulnerable, especially the youth.

 

Pero, meron din akong draft bill to regulate vaping and ecigs, etc. na ready rin akong isalang at i-defend as soon as mapasa ko na itong taxation portion. Kasi nauna lang naman yun because meron lang talaga tayong hinahabol na timeline.

 

Q: How will the ban affect the revenue generation of DOF?

 

Sen. Pia: Well, it’s very small compared to the overall collection. That is because e-cigs is still not widespread. It’s a new product. Bago lang yan. Ako nga hindi ko alam na may ganyang product until like a year ago na nakita kong may ganun.

 

So it will not contribute greatly immediately. I remember, DOF had said at some point, kung walang mako-collect diyan, okay lang kasi DOF recognizes that health comes first.

 

But I also understand that the President has also clarified his statement and I just have to push through with my part of the job. My job is to pass the taxation measure whether or not there’s an EO that comes out, if something comes out tomorrow, whether it’s a total ban or regulating, I have to be ready. Because this taxation measure has to be of a more or less permanent nature.

 

Paano kung temporary lang ang ban, tapos walang taxation measure in place? So I have to have that in place. And just to clarify also, there is actually a taxation measure in place. This was the law that was already passed last June towards the end of the 17th Congress [Republic Act 11346]. So that will be the one that will come into effect in January if I don’t push through with this measure and there is no ban.

 

So I have to push through in anticipation. I cannot assume na mato-total ban yan. I have to still do my job.

 

Q: Legally speaking, is the EO powerful enough to stop the entry of vape products and use, etc.?

 

Sen. Pia: You have to recognize, first of all, like I mentioned, again let’s go back.

 

DOH issued an AO. DOH time and again, and FDA, has the power to protect the public from health risks. That is their inherent power. Kung lahat na lang ng risks, let’s say itong sa polio, aantayin nila ang legislature, mahirap yun. There are parts of the work of the Executive that require immediate action.

 

So, DOH cannot always be waiting for the legislature to pass something. It is inherent in the Constitution, Article II Section 15 says that it is the State’s duty to protect the people’s health.

 

So may powers and responsibility ang DOH diyan and that goes without saying ang DOH naman is just an arm of no less than the President. They are under the President, so the President will also act that way.

 

But, I am not going to debate right now what is covered by the legislative powers and the executive powers. For me, you look at it on a case-to-case basis. Right now, the regulations that are supposed to protect the people from the harmful effects of e-cigarettes, vapes, heated tobacco products, otherwise known as HTPs, has been TRO’ed.

 

Kung ako din ang Presidente, sasabihin ko sa kanila, “Ah ganun, ni-TRO niyo yung aking health arm? ‘Di sige, i-ban ko na lang kayo.”

 

Q: Just to be clear, the bill you will push is just to regulate e-cigarettes or to institutionalize banning?

 

Sen. Pia: Right now, on the floor is the taxation measure that you know. So as of now, as of the past few months, I was pursuing, I was going along the lines of the direction of the Executive, which is to highly regulate.

 

The President and even DOF Secretary, DOH, have been very clear that there are harmful effects of ecigs. And I myself went to WHO and have confirmed this. Everything I heard in the hearings were confirmed during my trips abroad that we are dealing with a harmful product. So it must be regulated. And as I said, taxation is a means to regulate it for health purposes.

 

Meanwhile, for the health side, there are bills – I looked at it, I am actually vice chair of the Committee on Health and as you all know, an advocate for health. There are pending bills but I intend to file a bill, which I believe is more comprehensive and is more reflective of the need to highly regulate a product that poses a health risk to the Filipinos.

 

Wala pa ang bill na yun. It’s in the drafting stage. And if you recall, I’ve been busy as the chair of the Committee on Ways and Means, but my interest is always health. So my trip to WHO has given me more knowledge.

 

Actually, during the budget, I was reviewing that bill on the side. I’d say it’s about 90% complete. I just really wanted a few more revisions. But I’ll be ready to file that anytime.

 

Q: The filing will come after the taxation measure passes?

 

Sen. Pia: Hindi naman. If may time naman ako to finalize that bill, I will file it. And that bill, as I said in answer to your question, is going along the direction of highly regulating.

 

Si Senator Tolentino, whom I worked very closely with – he was in WHO – is for a total ban. Kasi for me, it’s a thin line. Ang aming understanding of the health risk is exactly the same. It’s more of the appreciation of what would work better in our country, a total ban or highly regulating [these products]?

 

Part of me wants total ban. But the other part of me is okay with highly regulating. And this is where I want to share this conundrum that I face, because here you have industry players saying, “I-regulate niyo kami, mas gusto naming ma-regulate para ma-weed out natin ang mga fly-by-night diyan and those that might produce products that don’t comply with the safety standard.”

 

But meanwhile, ni-TRO naman nila ang pagre-regulate ng FDA and DOH. ‘Di ngayon, unregulated. Paano ba yun?

 

Q: Can you be more specific, ano ang ibig sabihin ng “to highly regulate”?

 

Sen. Pia: What I mean by saying ‘highly regulate’ is, it can be sold but there are many -not just guidelines, but there are many dos and don’ts. And those dos and don’ts, I will enumerate.

 

But offhand, you cannot sell to the youth and, in this case, I have expanded it to young people. Because ang brain, there is evidence that shows that the brain continues to develop until 25 years old. So at the age of 19, hindi ka na [minor], pero ang brain mo and decision-making skills mo are still very susceptible to persuasion, to advertisement and all that. So, that’s one way of regulating – that you ban the youth and even young people.

 

Advertising, you highly regulate that. You either totally ban or you only allow it in limited spaces. So that’s what I mean, maybe we can have a separate discussion on that. But I am giving you a glimpse of what I mean by highly regulate. And even the places where you will sell.

 

I’d love to give you this example. In the United Kingdom, where they actually allow e-cigs to be sold freely, the reason for that is because their cigarettes are highly regulated. You cannot enter a store and see cigarettes anywhere. So nag-drop na ang consumption ng youth nila.

 

So now, with the e-cig business, it appears that their youth is not vulnerable to it the way the youth in the US is. Because there are no cigarettes around. You can’t enter a store and find it. In fact, I wanted to make a point of buying, I kept forgetting because every time I enter a convenience store, you won’t see it.

 

So ang cigarette industry nila – I’m referring to cigarette industry – is highly regulated. And this allowed them to now look at what e-cigs can do for them. They are not allowing it na walang regulation, ha? Kasi for them, it is still a harmful product. Pero medyo liberal sila in allowing it as an alternative to cigarettes.

 

Q: So the direction towards eventually banning the selling of e-cigs in convenience stores will be part of the bill?

 

Sen. Pia: If you ask me, it should be included in the debates, because it’s a harmful products. And all across the world, connected pa rin kasi yan sa cigarettes. So, cigarettes in other parts of the world, very regulated na ang kanilang pagbebenta.

 

So si e-cigs, saan pumapasok diyan? Eh parang tayo, nafa-fast forward. Hindi pa nga natin totally nare-regulate ang cigarettes, nandito na si e-cigs.

 

So gusto ni e-cigs, “Huwag niyo naman kami masyadong i-regulate, ang cigarettes nga hindi niyo nire-regulate.” That’s not an excuse, eh ‘di i-regulate kayo pareho ng mas matindi. Dapat naman talaga ma-regulate silang pare-pareho.

 

Q: Does the order to ban e-cigs have an effect on the President’s directive to certify the sin tax bill as urgent?

 

Sen. Pia: No. I don’t believe so, because like I mentioned, the President is very vocal about his concerns, ang ideas niya, he will really just say it. So my understanding is, just like me, when he says, “I-ban na lang yan,” it’s because of the facts that he’s faced with. It’s because of the annoying reality that these people don’t want to be regulated and then there are courts that actually felt that the business interest of these vaping companies are more important than the welfare and health of the Filipinos.

 

It boggles my mind. At si Presidente din, takang taka kung bakit ganyan sila magdesisyon. ni-TRO nila ang Department of Health and FDA.

 

Q: Will the sin tax bill be approved before the year ends?

 

Sen. Pia: I hope so. I have been having more detailed discussions with my colleagues. And I have expressed the request of DOF that we expedite this. So napapag-usapan na yan. And I have requested na magkaroon ng caucus right after the budget and that we prioritize the debates. Kasi ready naman ako.

 

Q: Does the caucus have a schedule already?

 

Sen. Pia: Sinabi ko naman kay SP [Senate President Vicente Sottto III] na gusto ko sana mag-caucus right after. Syempre, ayaw ko naman makagulo dahil hilong hilo na kaming lahat sa long hours ng budget. But hopefully. Kasi period of amendments na lang naman kami. So kung masisingit ko yun during one afternoon, para ma-explain ko na and ma-discuss din itong effects ng ban, baka iba-iba din ang ideas nila.

 

Ako, I want to say that tuloy natin ito. Kasi it’s just a question of rates. I don’t think anyone is not for taxing these sin products, it’s just a question of rates. So I wanna just sit down and discuss with them, “Saan tayo ngayon?” kasi ako, I stand by the rates that I propose.

 

Thank you! #