Our fight for health continues

By Senator Pia S. Cayetano
•Principal co-sponsor, Sin Tax Law of 2012 (RA 10351) as Senate health committee chair
•Principal sponsor, Sin Tax Law of 2020 (RA 11467) as Senate ways and means chair

Good evening, warm greetings to all of you. Of course, [former health secretary Enrique Ona], it’s so nice to see you. Everyone here. Hindi ko na kayo iisa-isahin. My partner in crime, my partner in healthcare, Sen. JV [Ejercito]. It’s so hard to work without partners. I can’t mention all of you but truly I am very happy to be here.

Of course, [Dr. Tony Dans], during the pandemic. Kaibigan ko si Tony because ang youngest sister niya is my teammate in UP Volleyball. Hindi kami close, yung kapatid niya ang close ko, pero naging close na kami dahil sa pandemic because of all the things that we had to discuss.

Anyway, I just have a few minutes, it’s very difficult for me to decide what to cut. Well, my journey started maybe when I became a senator in 2004. But, just a raise of hands, who was not part of this before 2012? Who wasn’t around during 2012? Because ia-eye-to-eye ko kayo, para marinig niyo yung kwento. Yun lang naman yun.

Okay, so there are a handful of people here who don’t know the journey and I’m speaking to the choir to those, many of you, who have been around and have heard it, but bear with me.

So in 2012 was my first major victory with a health bill that was, I can’t think of any other word, I’m sorry for the foreigners, but the Filipino word is “masalimuot.” It was so deep, so heavy, so intricate. It was so difficult, right? Masalimuot. It was very difficult to pass the [Sin Tax Law of 2012]. I mean, by then, I’ve been a senator for a few years, I have passed many other bills, but this was a difficult bill.

And I won’t go into details, but I told Tony that these stories have to be told. The committee report that came out for this 2012 Sin Tax Bill was rubbish. And this is me na hindi nagmumura in public. It was rubbish. And so then Senate President Franklin Drilon, had to…when you’re Senate President, you stay on the…JV, anong tawag dun kapag nandoon ka sa taas? Podium. [Senate President Drilon] had to go down and basically chair this committee because he had to change the committee report [which] was rubbish. It was a joke. And the thing is, what you have to understand is it is so easy to fool people if you will simply say, you raised taxes for [public] health. Everybody who loves health, “Oh, thank you ang bait niyo.” But it’s a joke. They raised it at such an amount that was not even up to par with inflation.

And this happened again, by the way, when I was in the House, right? When I was in the House, they passed the – tumatawa si JV – he was in the Senate, I was in the House, they passed a bill that increased the taxes on tobacco. It was a joke. I stood up and said, excuse me…kasi sa House sa dami naman ng tao, they really cannot accommodate everyone to speak. And I felt like I was a dead grasshopper about to be eaten by a swarm of ants, red angry ants. When I stood up, parang, “Sino ka to stand up when we’re about to pass this bill?” I’m talking about the tax bill… I was in the House between 2016, 17, 18. So somewhere there, around that time. And a swarm of ants telling me that I had no right to talk about this bill. But in fact, I had a right because that was an amendment to the 2012 Sin Tax Bill. And so I said my piece and what else could I do, I got outvoted, okay?

So 2012, I would say my journey started. But while I was writing my notes in the car, I had to tell myself that, “you know what, it’s not correct for me to say that journey started…” I’m simply saying I passed that difficult bill.

My journey started when I was a child. My mom is alive, she’s a living angel, kind-hearted, she’s a teacher, may puso ng isang teacher. My dad was very strict, he did not smoke and did not drink, and he walked the talk. So many kids grew up in an environment where they are told not to do one thing, and yet the people around them are all doing those things. I was blessed to be brought up in a home na kung bawal yan, bawal din sa parents ko. They don’t drink, they don’t smoke. So unless my brothers decide to take up smoking in their 40’s and 50’s, wala talagang naninigarilyo sa amin. And that is because of the family we were raised in. So that journey started then.

And this is the message I want everyone to hear who has children, grandchildren, pamangkins – it starts with the environment.

So here I am, as you know, I was a passionate runner, triathlete. I still run but I have a new passion, it’s called padel, P-A-D-E-L. You can look it up, that’s my new sport. I would run all over the country, the races would start at 4 AM, 5 AM, so as daylight breaks, people would come out of the house. This is all over the country, wherever. And then people would come out of the house and there’s going to be a man holding a baby, siguro ang asawa niya nagluluto. He’s holding a baby and holding a cigarette. I’ve seen that so often and that smoke is going to this baby’s face. And I’m running, here I am, I have that privilege of being healthy. Hindi ako kinarga na may sigarilyo sa mukha ko. Not only that, I was told not to smoke and yet here, there are children, they can’t even breathe in their own homes.

So that’s a privilege. A privilege I appreciate and I hope we can create for more people. And we have. We have created that. Why? Because my daughters who just graduated the last few years, one during the pandemic, the other, two years before the pandemic. All of them and their friends, they don’t smoke. So I am not saying this because, “yay magaling akong parent.” No, it’s not me. My generation of parents, their kids mostly, at least in the environment where these kids were brought up, they don’t smoke.

Alas, comes the new product, the e-cigarettes. Some of them, not my kids, because over my dead body, but no, they’re not interested and they have been educated about the ills of this thing.

So anyway, fast forward, actually my first introduction to sin products was the Graphic Health Warning Bill. We had a photo together [back in 2007] when you [Dra. Maricar Limpin] presented it [draft Graphic Health Warning Bill] to me. So yung mga lumalapit sa akin nagpe-present, magpa-picture na tayo habang nagpe-present di ba? Kasi years from now, it’s so nice to look back to see, wow we documented that.

And then I have these amazing photos with these kids [during the sponsorship of the Graphic Health Warning Bill, first in 2008, when they were still kids, and six years later in 2014, when the kids were already young adults]. Look at them, di ba? Look at them. I should have another picture with that group. Doon na sa plain packaging [bill] sila naman din. Siguro may anak na sila by the time na mapasa natin.

So there’s a deep history in all of this and what I wanted to say was there are stories to be told. So when I mentioned the story about then Senate President Frank Drilon having to take up the defense of a new bill altogether – by the way, he didn’t just take it up – he had to rewrite the whole bill because the bill that was presented to the Senate was a joke. And by the way, for the young people, nag-uumpisa pa lang ang social media noon. So the pressure that was put upon the sponsor of that bill was done through the brick and mortar, regular media, people who, well mostly the doctors, DOH people who said, “Hindi talaga kami papayag dito.” That’s how that happened. And then Sen. Drilon asked me to be the one to review the health aspect as he took care of the taxation aspect. So alam niyo na yan, pumasa na yan [Sin Tax Bill] 2012.

And then, interestingly, when I went back to the Senate after I won my seat in 2019, then Senate President Tito Sotto asked me to be the Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means. So in the earlier days, when I got involved in Sin Tax, that was because I was the Chairperson of the Committee on Health, and that’s how I ended up working with you and your team, Sec. Ona. So ngayon naman, I was asked to be Committee on Ways and Means [Chairperson]. And I’m a graduate of the UP School of Economics, taxation was very interesting for me, but it wasn’t really my practice, and I’d like to be good at what I do. So I was like, “eh, not so interested.” And then [Speaker Alan Cayetano] separately told me that Sec. Sonny Dominguez really, really wanted to work with me. Talaga? Nakakatuwa naman, di ba? Somebody tells you, somebody you look up to, really, really wants to work with me. Sabi ko, ano ba agenda? Sin Tax. Ay, hindi na ako maka-hindi. Kasi Sin Tax talaga, that’s really the reason I said yes to handling Ways and Means.

And as a mother, I feel very strongly about using the full force of government to help address this crisis. Not just health advocacy, but through using the power of taxation.

So long story short, we did that, we got it done [passage of the Sin Tax Law of 2020]. I was so happy because during the last few days, the final bill.. JV, of course you only heard of this lang by kwento, but naiyakan na kita niyan, di ba, yung mga nangyari? We were so happy because we were able to put in provisions on the [Food and Drug Administration] having the regulatory powers, age 21 [as minimum age of access to vape products], and the limitation of the flavors. Basically, walang flavor, di ba? Can you imagine? We were so happy.

What I want all of you to know is this, you see me and JV here, we are passionate health advocates. But like you were saying, Tony, many people don’t know the role of legislators here, right? And we appreciate being here. That’s why from Cebu bumalik talaga ako because I want to be part of this celebration.

But this is also what happened. During the bicameral conference [on the Sin Tax Bill], which is where the House and the Senate meet to reconcile, ibang iba ang version namin, mas mataas ang tax namin. Alam niyo yun, mas mataas ang tax namin because pinaglaban ko yun, mas mataas pa ang version ko kaysa sa Department of Finance. And Tito Sonny said, “Wow, okay. Okay sa amin yan.” Anyway, some of my colleagues felt hindi raw ako grounded, lumulutang daw ako, hindi ko raw alam yung nangyayari. Sabi ko, hindi, alam ko ang nangyayari, ayaw niyong taasan ang taxes, gusto niyo diktahan kayo ng industry. We’re one of the lowest pa rin in the region. Hindi ba, yun lang naman ang sa akin. Ina-align ko lang naman.

Anyway, ang kwento ko is this. What happened in the bicam, which was the inclusion of those three provisions I made, these would not be possible without the instructions and the support of my brother, then Speaker Alan Cayetano. You think of me as your health advocate, but my brother is the strategist. Because you know naman how it works, for those of you who worked with the House. Hindi niyo magagawa yan kung wala ang Speaker. Kung diktahan ng Speaker na, “ayaw ko nyan,” wala, hindi mangyayari yun. So I want Alan to get due recognition for this kasi kahit anong sabihin ko, and some of my colleagues, as you know, kayo na lang magbulungan, some of you don’t know, some of my colleagues are downright tobacco supporters. They were with me in the bicam. How could we have made it happen? Because my brother was the Speaker. That’s the simple truth.

So I move on. Barely a few months later, hindi na Speaker si Alan, and guess what? The House, pinaandar na nila yung, ano bang pangalan nun? Vapes, e-cigs regulation bill. Kay Alan, bantay yun. Ako ate di ba? So I can say, “Al, huwag na huwag mong ipapagalaw yan, ha?” So hindi gumalaw yun. Pero noong hindi na siya Speaker, ayun na, naging bill na, pumasa na yan sa House. And then sa Senate, pinabantayan ko, ano nangyari? JV, wala ka kasi doon. Ikaw talaga.

So the rest is history. One of the loneliest days of my life is having to oppose that bill from my house. Kasi I had the opportunity to attend an international conference, the first, this was 2021 November. Tapos ano ang variant na lumabas noon? [referring to the Delta variant] Nasa conference ako, hindi naka-mask ang mga tao doon.. so pagbalik ko, humaba ang quarantine, hindi ako nakapunta sa Senate to defend my position in person. I defended it from my house, without staff, without lawyers in front me. Kaya ko yun, pikit-mata kaya ko yun, alam niyo yun. But iba pa rin ang human warmth, yung support, which you always gave me in person.

It is what it is. Talo. But you know what, there’s a reason for everything. Kumbaga sa basketball, we just lost a quarter, or we lost a game. May second round pa yan, may championship pa yan, di ba? We’re in it for the long run.

So I end with my gratitude to all of you. We all have a role to play. Every role is important. Even my daughters, your kids. When my daughters repost what I post, it means something to me, because that means they understand my fight. And all the little things we each do.

Anyway, I want to end with two quick things. Our representative from the youth mentioned smoke-free something, right? Exactly the same term? Anyway… Philippine smoke-free movement. Thank you. But the largest tobacco companies call their move a ‘smoke-free’ move. So now, every time somebody messages me, “We are advocates for smoke-free,” teka muna, anong klaseng smoke-free kayo? You know? So I think we have to be creative here because that is the panloloko na ginagawa nila. Eh ano pa magagawa natin? Eh di call it out. That cannot be. I don’t know if you can bring that to court. Obviously, in this gathering, we know what we mean. But can you imagine if somebody called me and I didn’t check, and I told my staff, “Sige tulungan niyo yan.” Buti na lang my staff is also aware of this misuse of that term. Deliberately confusing use of that term. So that’s something.

So I had to tell my sister-in-law, [Taguig Mayor Lani Cayetano], at the time si [then Mayor Lino Cayetano], “Oy, ingatan niyo yan may lalapit sa inyo, may ibibigay pang ordinance.” You know that, right? May bitbit silang ordinance, ibibigay nila sa munisipyo, sa mga cities, smoke-free. May ganun. On its face naman, kahit alam ng lahat ng konsehal na ito ang advocacy ni Sen. Pia Cayetano, and they are in full support, at a glance, they think it’s a good thing. So we have to be very, very vigilant about it.

So that is, I think, what I wanted to remind everyone of. And finally, in New Zealand, parang every kid who was born a certain year, they will never touch a cigarette. What a dream, di ba? So saan na tayo doon? Every kid will have a chance to use an e-cigarette in this country kasi dadalhin na sa sari-sari store. What’s our narrative? What do we want? So there, that’s the thought I want to leave with everyone, those challenges that we have.

And on that note, again, thank you so much to everyone. Keep up the good work, I am honored to be in the company of each one of you. #

*Speech at the ‘Atin ang Sin Tax: 10 Years of Unity for Health’ (January 20, 2023)

 

Atin Ito Sin Tax
Senator Pia S. Cayetano joins a gathering of health advocates for the 10th year of the Sin Tax Law. With her are Dra. Maricar Limpin, executive director of the FCTC Alliance Philippines or FCAP, and Dr. Yul Dorotheo, executive director, Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance or SEATCA. Cayetano co-sponsored the Sin Tax Law of 2012 (RA 10351) as Senate health committee chair, and the Sin Tax Law of 2020 (RA 11467) as Senate ways and means committee chair.
Senator Pia S. Cayetano receives a commendation from the Sin Tax Coalition for her efforts in leading the fight to tax harmful vices and channeling its proceeds to improve the public health system.
Speaking at an event marking the 10th year of the Sin Tax Law, Senator Pia S. Cayetano said the fight for health continues, especially for our children and the youth.
Senator Pia Cayetano with fellow health advocates (L-R): Dra. Maricar Limpin, Dr. Antonio Dans, and Dra. Leonila Dans.

On the CDC bill

Highlights of interview with Senator Pia S. Cayetano
On bills establishing the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Medical Reserve Corps (MRC)
Senate Recto Room, November 24, 2022

Question: What is your timeline for this bill (CDC)?

Senator Pia S. Cayetano (SPSC): Maybe as early as next week. Mukhang prepared naman sila [resource persons] to have a [Technical Working Group, TWG] para maplantsa nang mas maayos ang bill. That’s the most important because once the bill is seamless, walang butas, I can sponsor it.

But I cannot sponsor a bill kung butas-butas. Like if we cannot resolve this issue on the Virology Institute and RITM [overlap in functions], ang hirap na i-defend yun na hindi rin ako clear. So we just need these things resolved, among a few other things. So far, it looks good.

Q: Can you expound more on the issue?

SPSC: Since last year, since the last Congress, Sen. Nancy Binay and I have been concerned about the creation of a new institute, which is the Virology and Vaccine Institute under DOST vs. supporting and giving more funding for [the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine]. Because clearly, they perform similar functions.

Ang ine-explain, and I would ask you to talk to some of the experts here, including [Director Dr. Celia C. Carlos] of RITM, the virology institute would include [study of viruses affecting] plants, animals, and humans. Ang focus ng RITM, I am told, is humans. So as I said, I support rightsizing. Kung ang RITM as we know it, [ay] end of life na siya, and ang important functions niya is parang maa-absorb sa CDC, okay lang sa akin yun, kasi kung ano naman ang mas efficient. We have to be able to move along with the times. So if we’re creating another institute, which is the recommendation, there’s another bill on the creation of the virology institute, then Sen. Nancy Binay and I are asking the question: why are we going to end the life of one, in this case, and then put up another one? So we just need more clarity on that.

Now, Dr. Carlos said that in other countries, it’s healthy, there is nothing wrong na you have different institutes that do their own thing but there may have been overlaps because they can do more research. Again, it’s okay. But do we have the funding to support that? Because from our experience, pagdating sa budget, may kakapusin. And RITM has historically always been underfunded. Nito na lang pandemic na, ‘ay may ganun, may RITM’? [The public got to know about RITM at the height of the pandemic.]

Pero in all humility, nung Chairman ako ng Committee on Health since 2004, we’ve supported it, but I did not get the kind of support I need to really be able to help RITM, ngayon na lang. Tapos ngayon na napansin sila, ililibing na sila.

But again, I am being very clear na I have no problem with rightsizing. Mag-rightsize ka, tapos mag-create ka ng bago, i-align natin yan.

Q: Isn’t it conflicting? Why don’t they just expand RITM’s mandate?

SPSC: That is exactly the question that Sen. Binay and I have asked, na hindi ba pwede i-support na lang si RITM, i-expand nga ang function niya? Is there something that prevents us from expanding their function? Kasi if they say na RITM only does this, sa humans lang, hindi pwede dagdagan imbes na mag-create ng bago?

And that’s why ang questions nga ni Sen. Binay include, so saan ang funding? Lilipat ba ng opisina, magke-create ng bagong funding? So I don’t believe, to be clear, I don’t have anything against the creation of a virology institute, for so long as it’s very clear that RITM or in whatever form it remains, is fully supported. And before that creation of a new institute happens, i-assess naman natin if pwede naman i-expand ang existing institute, which is RITM. Hindi pa naresolve ang question na yan as far as I am concerned and from what I know, as far as Sen. Binay is concerned.

Q: As a priority bill, in case it will be passed before Christmas break, will there be funding?

SPSC: Wala pa ako sinabing mapapasa ko. [laughs] Tinanong mo ako ng timeline, ang sinabi ko is ito ang hearing, TWG, tapos possible na ma-sponsor ko [in plenary]. Pero ang importanteng issues, I cannot tell you how long these will take kasi sa Senado, hinihimay talaga namin yan. Ayaw namin na papasa, tapos next year, next budget, magtitinginan kami na, ‘bakit ganun, hindi pala maliwanag’?

If you recall just now, nagsalita ang representative ng NDRRMC and meron din silang… nare-recruit or nae-encourage na volunteers din nila. So all of that has to be aligned now in the MRC or the new HEART bill [Health Emergency Auxiliary Reinforcement Team], yung Mandatory Reserve Corps, which is now yung health auxiliary volunteer service. It has to all be aligned so hindi pwede madaliin yan na hindi yan aligned. Inasmuch as gusto ko, there are only how many remaining session days? Realistic time check. I will try my best, pero realistically, if you want a good bill, don’t expect that it will happen in just a few days of session. Marami naman matalino sa Senate na hihimayin at pagagandahin pa ito.

Sa budget issue, ang comment mismo ng representative ng DBM is antayin pa nila ang details kasi they want to fully support it. Sabi ko nga, for sure naman mag-support ang DBM dahil it’s an administration bill. But I think for them to support it, they also need clarity from DOH and the other agencies kung ano talaga ang expense. Tama naman

Q: Will it be discussed in the bicam tomorrow?

SPSC: Hindi, I doubt it. I doubt it. But definitely, pwede sila mag-increase ng funding doon sa mga existing, [like] RITM. Hindi yata naman pwede mag-fund ng non-existing, bawal naman yun. But they can support the other existing agencies. From what I know. But I would suggest tanungin niyo din ang Chairman natin baka meron paraan na hindi ko rin alam.#

On the overlapping functions of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine [RITM] with the proposed Virology Institute, Senator Pia S. Cayetano said that the matter needs to be carefully assessed, with efficiency and the availability of funding in mind.

Pia slams vape promo event disguised as a scientific forum

Pia slams vape promo event disguised as a scientific forum
Highlights from the privilege speech of Senator Pia S. Cayetano
November 8, 2022

Mr. President, every day, there are different articles on the harmful effects of vape products and the danger it poses to users, especially the youth.

May I direct our colleagues to the screen to view some headlines and I will read some [reads news headlines from the plenary monitor]:

•”Vaping has similar impact on the heart as cigarettes, studies warn”;

•”Is vaping really better than smoking? Experts warn vapers [are] exposed to more nicotine”; [and]

•”Vaping adults displayed worrisome changes in blood pressure and heart function, studies find”.

So ayan, for our friends, colleagues, Filipinos who are engaging in vaping, e-cigarettes, may mga health warning talaga ang mga expert. Araw-araw, nakakakita ako n’yan sa news. And yet here we are your honors…the reason for this privilege speech.

Last Thursday, November 3, Philip Morris International… I think they are now calling themselves PMI… issued various invitations to Filipino doctors to attend what they described as a scientific forum, wherein foreign health “experts” discussed vape products as a tobacco harm reduction tool.

Mr. President, I see this as an underhanded move by the tobacco and vape industry to unduly influence members of our medical community to be more accepting of their products, despite the known ill effects of vaping on public health, especially the youth.

What does our law say? The recently passed Vape Law, in Section 12… specifically says that no vaporized nicotine and non-nicotine products, or novel tobacco products shall have medicinal or therapeutic claims on its marketing material or packaging, unless such claim is approved by the FDA, pursuant to RA 9711.

Mr President, there is also the FDA Law. Many times, I have brought this up and I will do it again for the record. The FDA defines “health products.” Health products means, “food, drugs, cosmetics, devices, biologicals, vaccines, in-vitro diagnostic reagents and household/urban hazardous substances and/or a combination of and/or a derivative thereof.”

Ito na ang importante: “It shall also refer to products that may have an effect on health which require regulations as determined by the FDA.”

So any product that has an effect on health must be regulated by the FDA. And that’s why mayroon tayong rules and laws that say na bawal mag-claim na mayroong positive health effects, na ang isang produkto katulad ng vapes and e-cigarettes ay ‘harm reduction,” unless nag-register ka as a harm reduction product. Kung hindi ka nag-register [ng vape] as a harm reduction product, you have no business promoting anything. You have no business bringing your so-called ‘health experts’ to the Philippines to talk about harm reduction and the benefits of vaping.

Ayan nga, nasa news delikado siya [vaping]. If you have claims otherwise, then bring it to the FDA and get permission to claim that your products are health products that are now being properly regulated.

Mr. President, this is underhanded and unethical. Again, I will demonstrate to the body and the public some things that are in my handbag that require FDA regulation [shows different products from her bag]:

•eyedrops, sa mata lang ito hindi ito nilalanghap, kailangan ng FDA regulation;

•lipstick, hindi ko ito nilulunok, nilalagay ko lang sa lips ko, kailangan ng FDA regulation;

•powder na may SPF 50, pinapahid ko lang sa mukha ko, hindi ko inaamoy, hindi ko nilulunok, kailangan ng FDA regulation;

•sunblock para sa lips, moisturizer and sunblock, kailangan din ng FDA regulation, hindi ko rin iniinom ito, hindi ko rin nilulunok;

•eye shadow, ganun din pinapahid ko lang sa mata ko hindi sa loob, sa balat; and finally

•alcohol, alam n’yo yan lahat yan, kailangan ng FDA regulation.

Hindi pwede mag-claim na pwedeng gamitin sa isang bagay. Kung ano lang ang pwede, doon lang pwede. So ang tobacco products, and itong mga tinatawag na novel tobacco products, hindi pwedeng basta-basta i-promote yan kahit sa mga doktor na nakakabuti.

Ang mga doktor natin, magagaling. Pero nagre-rely din sila sa mga tinatawag na scientists o experts para bigyan din sila ng bagong impormasyon. Eh yan nga ang mga bagong impormasyon. Ang PMI, magpapa-seminar o tinatawag na “scientific forum” at ang mga imbitado ay mga doktor. May kopya ako ng invitation para sabihin ang beneficial effects ng e-cigarettes, vapes, heated tobacco products. Hindi pwede yun. Bawal yun. It is unethical, your honor.

And it is my firm belief that since we are about to discuss the budget, sayang na andami sa atin…Senator Bong Go just stood up to promote the support for more budget for health, and our Chairman, Sen. Angara is trying to find funding to support health. May additional funding pa yun for health workers, who have dedicated their lives, who have risked their lives during the time of COVID, at the height of COVID, may utang pa tayo sa kanila [medical frontliners], di ba, Sen. Angara? Bilyon ang utang natin sa kanila, tinaya nila ang buhay nila.

Tapos, ito tayo, with one hand, naghahanap ng pondo para tulungan ang health, and with the other hand, pinapabayaan natin ang mga seminar na ito na gumagawa ng health claims na wala namang permiso ng FDA.

So yun lang ang sa akin, Mr President, because this Congress, not this Senate, [but] the previous Senate, passed the Vape Law which happily includes a provision that says na bawal gawin yun. So hindi natin dapat payagan na gawin nila yun. Trabaho ba natin yun? Hindi, trabaho ng FDA at DOH yan. But it is my job to bring it to the attention of the body para sama-sama naman tayong manindigan na hindi tayo pwedeng ganyanin. Hindi pwedeng ang kabataan, ang mga Pilipino, pinagbobola at pinagloloko na dinadaan pa sa doktor ang information na ito na hindi ho tama.

Let me end with a few other visuals. Tingnan niyo naman please, my dear colleagues, ang nasa ad na ito, because the journal does not have pictures. I will just describe, ito po ay mga advertisement [shows old cigarette promotional ads] na ang bida ay doktor, o at least mukhang doktor na pino-promote ang sigarilyo. Di ba ngayon medyo nasha-shock tayo? Wow talaga ha, gumamit pa ng doktor to promote cigarettes.

But this is how it was maybe 50 years ago, your honors. Doktor, dentista ang ginagamit. Guess what? Ngayon, fast forward, ganun pa rin ginagamit nila. Doktor ngayon ang gusto nilang bolahin para doktor din ang magpo-promote ng vapes and e-cigs. It’s the same story. Huwag naman tayong magpabola. Ngayon, shocked tayo.

With all due respect, I try to be a responsible chairman of the Committee on SDGs and Futures Thinking. So let’s put ourselves 50 years from now. Titingnan din natin ang ads na ang kasama ay doktor na nagpo-promote ng vapes and e-cigs, at sasabihin din natin, na ha? Ganun? Pumayag tayo na ganun? So ngayon pa lang, pumayag naman kayo na samahan ako na hindi tayo papayag na ganyan, na nagpapa-seminar in the guise of a scientific forum.

In fact, your honors, ang isang invitation nila, let me read the details. Sabi nila, it’s an “oncology event.” So oncologists pa, specialists pa ng cancer ang inimbita nila para sabihin na ano? Mag-vape na lang ang mga pasyente n’yo? Tama ba yun? Hindi tama yun, your honors.

So on that note, let’s celebrate our anniversary and be united in fighting the good fight. Thank you, Mr President, thank you Majority Floor Leader, naisingit mo ako sa masikip nating schedule and thank you, dear colleagues.#

Co-sponsoring the 2023 national budget

Co-sponsorship speech on the proposed 2023 nat’l budget
By Senator Pia S. Cayetano
Senior Vice Chairperson, Senate Committee on Finance

Mr. President, I rise today to co-sponsor the 2023 budget as the Senior Vice Chairperson of the Committee on Finance in charge of the budgets of the (a) Department of Health and its attached agencies and corporations; (b) Department of Education and its attached agencies; (c) Commission on Higher Education; (d) State Universities and Colleges; (e) Cultural Agencies; and (f) the Development Academy of the Philippines.

I won’t go into details on the budgets I handled as Chairperson, because our Chairman already highlighted many of them. Suffice it to say, we sought to future-proof and use strategic foresight, to uphold intergenerational fairness, and to be prepared for whatever challenges lie ahead, because we do live in a VUCA world. VUCA, meaning, Volatile Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous.

We heard the agencies using the lens of futures thinking and the [Sustainable Development Goals] as the main blueprint and guide to help attain the different goals for a more sustainable and prosperous future.

And although the agencies whose budget this representation heard were those on health, education and the cultural agencies…as your Senior Vice Chair, we sought to participate in other hearings and will continue to do so in the plenary debates using the same lens that will ensure intergenerational fairness.

Naturally, we are guided by the Constitution – Article XIV, Section 5, par. 5 provides that “The State shall assign the highest budgetary priority to education and ensure that teaching will attract and retain its rightful share of the best available talents through adequate remuneration and other means of job satisfaction and fulfillment.”

With studies showing that learning poverty in the Philippines is real, and the detrimental effects of not being in the classroom for almost two years due to the restrictions imposed because of COVID both in basic education and at the tertiary level, it is only fitting that we continue to look for ways to support the education sector.

On health, Article XIII, Sec. 11 of the Constitution provides that “the State shall adopt an integrated and comprehensive approach to health development which shall endeavor to make essential goods, health and other social services available to all the people at affordable cost.”

The continued support for the health sector is reflected in the budget, thanks to our Chairman. This includes improving facilities and their operations, particularly the delivery of primarily health care services, but also the establishment of specialty centers and their operations.

Increasing the carrying capacity for existing medical state universities and colleges, providing support to those with pending applications to offer medical programs , as well as increasing the carrying capacity of SUCs with Nursing and Allied Health Programs.

On another matter, UNICEF has reported that the Philippines has one million children who have not received a single dose of childhood vaccine. Funding for the hiring of immunization vaccinators will help us prevent a serious outbreak of vaccine preventable diseases like polio and measles.

On a final note, this representation appreciates the Chairperson’s trust over the years, and we thank the LBRMO and all the staff who worked on the budget. We will be ready to provide our colleagues with answers to their questions in the hope that we can continue to support these agencies. Thank you, Mr. President. #

Speech on the Vape Law

Privilege speech of Senator Pia S. Cayetano on the lapsing of the Vape Bill into law

Thank you, Mr. President. It’s good to see you up there, Mr. President, far away from us but I know your heart is here on the floor, especially when I deliver this speech. Thank you, with the permission of the body.

As my colleagues who have been with me in the 18th Congress know, this matter is very close to my heart, and I hope in the opening of the 19th Congress, it will also be close to your hearts.

Mr. President, I received the news just a few hours ago that the Vape Bill has just lapsed into law.

Today the tobacco industry rejoices with the passage of this law. Naloko na naman nila ang taumbayang Pilipino. It is shocking, to say the least, how differently other countries deal with this. In the 18th Congress, we debated and put on record that some countries actually banned the use of e-cigarettes, heated tobacco products, and vapes.

In the United States (US), where it is allowed, the US FDA had actually placed Juul’s application for its electronic cigarettes under “additional review.” Pag-aaralan pa bago man lang matikman ng mga kabataan nila. Aralin daw muna nila ng sigurado. They did this in order to ensure that the e-cigarettes benefit public health. Hindi lang yung ‘wag nakakasama, pero may benepisyo. Eh tayo? Anong ginawa natin? I’ll get to that in a few minutes. In fact in the US, 55,000 flavors were rejected by the US FDA kasi nga walang proven health benefits.

And here we are in this country, we passed a bill that has lapsed into law that will not even, hindi man lang dadaan sa gate ng FDA, doon na lang daw sa DTI. Isipin niyo, mga kasama, ako may anak, 12 years old, binilang ko, pagdating niya ng last year ng senior high, he will be 18. Target na siya ng mga e-cigarette and vape companies, bakit nangyari yun? Kasi pinasa ng 18th Congress ang bill na yan.

You know, dear colleagues, I felt a glimmer of hope during the SONA yesterday, when the President repeatedly emphasized that science will be a cornerstone of his administration’s programs, in agriculture, health and education. I thought this meant that the Vape Bill was vetoed, because the science clearly tells us just how harmful these products are. Medical experts have repeatedly said that the Vape Bill is masquerading as a health measure. What it does is it deregulates, it does not regulate. It is harm introduction, not harm reduction.

To say that I am disappointed in the 18th Congress that passed the bill, and with the President for not vetoing it, will not do justice to the millions of lives that will be put in harm’s way because of the Vape Law.

I will divide the discussion into two parts: (1) Procedural and (2) Substantive.

(1) On the procedural issue. How did we get here? Listen carefully, dear colleagues, because this is very interesting, I promise you.

The Vape Bill was passed by both Houses after bicam on January 26, 2022. For those who were running for reelection tandaan niyo yan, kasi a few days na lang, magbe-break na, mangangampanya na kayo. January 26.

As the campaign went on, I was monitoring, wondering, kailan kaya yan mata-transmit sa Malacanang? Hindi ko dini-deny, panay ang padala ko ng prayers, spiritual prayers to the President na i-veto niya yan. Nagtataka ako March, wala pa, sige lang baka documentation, papers. April wala pa rin. May wala pa rin. Kalagitnaan ng June wala pa rin hindi pa rin nata-transmit sa Malacanang. Ano na nangyari? Five months passed before that bill was transmitted to Malacanang. Five months.

By comparison, dear colleagues, yung ibang bill, Marawi Siege Victims Compensation Act was transmitted to the Office of the President in a little more than a month; Foundling Recognition and Protection Act – very close to the heart of my companera over there, Sen. Risa and Sen. Grace – it was transmitted to the Office of the President in two months; and the Anti-Trafficking Act – again a bill of our colleague Sen. Risa – was transmitted in three months. Ito, five months.

Bakit kaya itong bill natengga nang ganito? Fina-follow up ko, nasa desk daw ng ating high officials of Congress. Ano kaya ang inantay nila? Is it because nabalitaan nila na balak i-veto ni Presidente? Is it because ang balita is kinaladkad pa doon sa meeting kay Presidente ang mga high officials ng tobacco company para makiusap pero ang sagot ni Presidente, kwinento niya ang kanyang personal health condition na galing daw sa tobacco, clearly indicating na balak niyang i-veto.

Hindi ko alam. Kwento-kwento lang naman. So ito tayo, five months, barely three days, just because the weekend na matatapos ang term ni President Duterte, saka pinadala. This poses a lot of questions, dear colleagues. Tama ba yun that the members of the 18th Congress who passed the bill, natapos na yung term nila, natapos na rin ang term ng Presidente, na kung sino dapat magdesisyon kung ivi-veto niya yun o magla-lapse into law o kung anuman ang balak niyang gawin, dinelay para makarating sa next president? That is a legal quandary, my dear colleagues. And for such an important issue, again, I wash my hands. I refuse to be part of this historical moment where nagawa ito ng 18th Congress.

(2) I move on now to the substantial issues.

For the information of the newly elected and comebacking members of Congress, the previous law, Republic Act No. 11467, or the “Sin Tax Reform Act of 2020”, was enacted into law on January 22, 2020.

So, timeline, nag-start ang 18th Congress July ng 2019. By December, napasa natin ang Sin Tax Law. Within how many months, kasi priority revenue measure yun. Doon nagkaroon ng debate, Sen. Tol [Tolentino] was actually a proponent of banning. Pero we debated it and you know, nadala pa natin sa diskusyon kung naaalala niyo, well hindi naman natin panahon yun, wala na siguro umabot dito noon, sa US yung prohibition, sabi, huwag natin i-ban, i-regulate natin. So that decision was made to regulate sin products, including vapes, in the Sin Tax Law. And to regulate it, to be able to collect tax money, we wanted to be sure na protected din ang mga tao. So we passed three important provisions in that Sin Tax Law.

Number one, ang dapat mag-regulate is FDA, Food and Drug Authority. Siya talaga ang may trabaho niyan.

And we also said na dapat ang may access niyan aged 21. Kasi all over the world, ang move pati sa sigarilyo, papunta na sa 21. Do you know I think it’s Australia… they passed a law where if you were born this year, you will never touch a cigarette in your life, kahit 18 years old ka na. Ganun katindi ang tobacco regulation in other countries.

Anyway, I digress. The third regulation was only plain tobacco and plain menthol are allowed.

My brother, Sen. Alan Cayetano, was the Speaker in the House when this bill was passed. When he was no longer Speaker, the House immediately passed the Vape Bill and after, in the Senate, my Vape Bill and a number of other vape bills which were pending in the Committee on Health were transferred to the Committee on Trade, and it created a subcommittee, which was chaired by Sen. Recto. And they proceeded to discuss this measure as if it was a trade measure, which was clearly on the record, secondary ang health. Who cares kung mamatay ang mga bata, basta yung daw gustong tumigil manigarilyo, may access sila. Well guess what? We don’t need a Vape Bill para magka-access. Open your phones, sa mga may Gcash, yan ang unang unang magpa-pop up. Available po ang ecigs, HTPs, at lahat ng variations ng vapes without a Vape Bill.

So to say na kailangan ng Vape Bill para yung gustong tumigil manigarilyo, may access, that’s a lie. Gusto nila ng Vape Bill because gusto nilang tanggalin yung tatlong provision na sinabi ko sa inyo. At yun na nga ang nangyari. Pinasa ng 18th Congress under my objections, again and again and again, lowering the age of access to 18, making the DTI responsible for this harmful product, and opening the flavors to more and more flavors, which as shown in other countries, is the number one attraction to young people, more flavors.

The FDA law is clear. It regulates all things that may have an effect on health. Dear colleagues, I was the Chairman of the Committee on Health when we passed the FDA Law in 2009. The provision of the FDA Law states health products means food, drugs, cosmetics, devices, biologicals, vaccines, in-vitro diagnostic reagents and household/urban hazardous substances and/or a combination of and/or a derivative thereof. It shall also refer to products that may have an effect on health. May effect ba sa health ang vapes? Meron. The proponents claim it has a good effect, better daw than cigarettes. Eh di may effect pa rin, di ba? But the 18th Congress decided hindi siya health product, ilagay natin yan sa DTI.

This industry, dear colleagues, is slimy. They have a track record of avoiding regulation. In 2009, we passed the FDA law that I just mentioned, which was intended to cover tobacco products. Sabi nga, all products that have an effect on health.

When the FDA issued regulations covering cigarette products, pina-TRO ng tobacco industry yan. Pinangununahan ng Philippine Tobacco Institute (members include Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corporation). Ilang taon yan sa korte kasi ayaw nila magpa-regulate. Excluded daw sila, special sila. Do not regulate tobacco in the Philippines para lahat ng Pilipino, ma-addict sa sigarilyo at mamatay sa lung cancer. Yan ang position ng tobacco industry, including PH Tobacco Institute. But guess what? A few weeks ago, 13 years after I passed that law, which a few of you here, of course Loren was here, a few others, my batchmate, Sen. Lito, Sen. Jinggoy, Sen. Bong, among others. When we passed that law, it’s been 13 years, finally the Supreme Court said, “covered ang tobacco.” It’s a victory. Very clear. The Supreme Court said, tobacco products are “undoubtedly ‘health products’ within the definition under Republic Act No. 9711, or the Food and Drug Administration Act of 2009, due to their harmful effects on health. As to the health aspect, tobacco products fall under the regulatory authority of the Food and Drug Administration.”

Of course, the tobacco industry files a reconsideration, so pending pa rin yan. Tama ba yun, tama ba yun? Let’s decide, dear colleagues. Because we can put an end to this now.

Now let me ask you, if we can allow a product that clearly has effects on health, whether harmful, not so harmful, very harmful, you decide, we’re not the experts. What’s next? Where will the next lobby come from, dear colleagues?

As I continue my speech, I will put here on my podium things that are on my table and handbag. [Note: Senator Pia takes out different consumer products] Yung alcohol na galing sa ating Senate Secretariat. Ang aking Nivea sunblock for my lips, kasi as we age we get sunspots, and I have a sunspot on my lip that hopefully is not harmful, it is just hopefully cosmetically unpleasant; ang aking new discovery, 24 hours stay-on lipstick; mints; eye shadow; and compact powder. Lahat ito laman ng bag ko. What’s next? Where will the next lobby come from? Sino diyan ngayon magsasabi na wag niyo kami i-regulate, DTI na lang? Kasi kahit ipahid yan sa mata ko, di bale nang mabulag ka, I am now passing a basket of other products, and I want you, dear colleagues, to take time to look at. Because this is what we are allowing to happen in our country. Pagbigyan niyo yung [Senate paige] na pinapakita nila sa inyo yan, because I want this to be visually in your head. This is what we are allowing to happen.

Paano contact lenses, may I see a show of hands, sino ang naka-contact lenses dito? Meron ba? Alam niyo, nauso ang colored contacts, diba? Paano kapag sinabing wag na kasi yung arguments that I heard, mahirap kausap yung FDA, wag na ilagay sa FDA. Ganun? Eh di palitan niyo ang FDA head kung mahirap kausap. Huwag niyo ilipat sa DTI, that’s not their job. Now I ask you, all of you have access to the internet, on your cell phones, laptops, Ipads, whatever, check out the mandate of DTI, saan diyan nakalagay na they are in charge of health?

Now let me take you on a walk through memory lane. I was a new lawyer when I started my job in Castillo, Laman Tan, Pantaleon law offices, and one of our clients was Pepsi, and there was this 349 fiasco, if you remember… 349 was this promo na kapag nakita mo sa tansan ang promo, you’re gonna win something. Eh nagkamali kasi parang millions of people got a 349 tansan, which entitled them to millions of pesos, and there was a case. And you go to DTI, because DTI’s mandate is to settle these cases. So I go to DTI to look at these claims because kliyente nga namin. But guess what? Meron din claims against soft drinks… may claims kasi pag-inom nila, may lumulutang, may ipis, that happens, whatever the brand is. The DTI [inaudible] go to FDA. Pero ngayon sa vapes, tayo, Congress, said, ikaw na bahala DTI, wala na kaming pakialam sa healthcare ng mga kabataan.

Hay nako, buti na lang athlete ako kasi otherwise, nag-hyperventilate na ako. You know what, dear colleagues, I look at my dear colleague here, he has a baby. Paano kung ang next na target nila, baby wipes, diapers, rash cream, paano? Sabihin na wag na, tagal magpa-approve sa FDA, DTI na lang yan. Ganun? Oh yung pinass on ko sa inyo, insect repellant, dengue, wag na FDA. Tagal eh. Yun lang naman ang sinagot niyo sa akin, antagal. Hirap kausap.

Sabi niyo pa tumanggap ng pera, eh tumatanggap talaga ng pera yan galing sa WHO, the recognized agencies of WHO to protect healthcare. Alam niyo ba, one of the first things I did when I was a senator was defending my bill on expanded immunization for children. Why? Because the grant of UNICEF on hepatitis vaccines was coming to an end. Kapag tapos na ang grant nila, kasi binibigay nila sa poorest of the poor, eh hindi na tayo poorest of the poor so binibigay nila sa ibang bansa. So kapag hindi napondohan yun sa health budget, mawawala na ang vaccination ng hepa, so I had to put it in a law. Tagal bago pumasa ang law, pero because we took it up on the floor, DOH started budgeting for it. Why do I mention that? Well I mention that because ganun din yun, galing din sa ibang agency ang pera na yun, to stop hepatitis. Ito, to stop a preventable sickness like lung disease and so many other complications that come from tobacco and vapes, make no mistake, also have those harmful ingredients.

I am about to end. To the new members of the Senate… and to all of us, I hope you remember that every decision we make in every bill will change the lives of Filipinos for better or for worse. Your vote matters.

Putting at risk the health of our people and of future generations through this law will haunt our collective conscience down the road. When we wake up to a generation addicted to vapes, that’s on the 18th Congress that passed the Vape Bill, and on this administration that allowed it to pass.

I have an intern, she’s 17 years old. Her friends are all vaping. That, dear colleagues, is the situation. Are you gonna listen to the proponents of vape that said, at least hindi sila naninigarilyo. My dears, kapag may addict ba sa pamilya mo, sasabihin mo, at least hindi heroin, hindi sinasaksak, nilalaklak lang. Ganun? No, if you care about health, you care about health. Cigarettes may be here but the dangers imposed by vapes and ecigs is still here. That’s our job – to listen to the science.

And I go back to the SONA, science daw. And I am sad because I want to support this administration. The success of this administration is the success of the Filipino people. I wrote to the DTI, the Department of Education, the Department of Finance, because the former DOF supported this. It’s not about generating revenue, the revenue is there, in the Sin Tax Law, hindi mababawasan. And I had hoped that we would get the support of these agencies, to veto this bill. The usual supporters of course came forward, DOH, FDA, and the 60 health organizations that know their business. They supported the veto of this measure.

I am heartened to hear our new Senate President says in the earlier discussion with Sen. Loren, who brought up the topic of nuclear, Sen. Tol I think, our Senate President said that he had a different view then changed his mind, I am not commenting on nuclear because I have to admit, I will also study it further, but I am happy because that is our job to study. It is not an embarrassment to change your mind. In fact, I pride myself, this may sound weird, in being humble, because I believe that my job is to always listen to contrary opinions and be persuaded by science. So it is no harm, and that is something that we can still do on the road.

So that is our task. We are called to study, to be willing to change our position when the science and evidence call for it. My heart is broken but my spirit is not. I will never stop fighting for the health and well-being of the Filipinos, even against strong lobbies of industries and policymakers who choose to support their interests over the Filipino people. Thank you, Mr. President. #

Senator Pia Cayetano
Senator Pia Cayetano on the lapsing into law of the Vape Bill: “Every decision we make in every bill will change the lives of Filipinos for better or for worse.”

My heart is broken, my spirit is not

Statement of Sen. Pia S. Cayetano on the lapsing of the Vape Bill into law

I felt a glimmer of hope while listening to the SONA yesterday, when the President repeatedly emphasized that science will be a cornerstone of his administration’s programs, including in health and education.

I thought this means that the Vape Bill would be vetoed, because the science clearly tells us just how harmful these products are, while medical experts have repeatedly said how the Vape Bill masquerades as a health measure, as it really pushes for de-regulation, not regulation, and harm introduction, not harm reduction.

To say that I am disappointed in the 18th Congress that passed the bill, and with the President for not vetoing it, will not do justice to the millions of lives that will be put in harm’s way because of the Vape Law.

My heart is broken but my spirit is not.

I will never stop fighting for the health and well-being of the Filipinos, even against strong lobbies of industries and policymakers who choose to support their interests over the people.#

Call to Veto the Vape Bill
Senator Pia Cayetano expresses disappointment over the lapsing of the Vape Bill into law, despite the strong opposition expressed by several medical associations, which cited the measure’s dangers to public health and the youth.

Unmasking the Vape Bill lies

Statement of Senator Pia S. Cayetano

  • Principal sponsor, Sin Tax Law of 2020 (RA 11467)
  • One of two senators who voted ‘no’ to the Vape Bill in the 18th Congress

One of the oldest tricks used by the intellectually dishonest are logical fallacies. These are arguments that seem compelling on the surface, but are really unsupported by facts or scientific evidence. In social debates, such fallacies are used to muddle issues and mislead the public.

That (1) “vapes are banned or unregulated by the government,” and (2) “the Vape Bill protects the youth” – are just two of many logical fallacies used by Vape Bill proponents to push their agenda. Recent pro-Vape Bill press releases are also replete with such lies.

First, vapes are currently not banned, but have been allowed to be sold for several years already. Thus, the Vape bill is not needed simply to make vapes available. It’s also not true that these products are unregulated. The regulatory system led by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took effect last May 25, as mandated by the Sin Tax Law of 2020 (RA 11467).

Second, the Vape Bill is not pro-youth. How can it be when it allows more flavors to flood the market by abolishing the RA 11467 provision that limits vapes to plain menthol and plain tobacco? And what could be more anti-youth than lowering the minimum age of access to e-cigs from 21 to 18?

And if in fact, the proponents really believe in regulation, then why are they silent about the Vape Bill’s provision removing the jurisdiction of FDA over vapes and transferring it to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)? What expertise does the DTI have in regulating products that are harmful to health?

I mentioned the false narratives of the Vape Bill camp in my letter to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, where I also echoed the stand of more than 60 medical associations, as well as the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Education (DepEd), and Department of Finance (DOF) through their former heads.

May all lies be unmasked. May the truth prevail. Veto the Vape Bill. #

Veto the Vape Bill press conference
Echoing the stand of over 60 medical associations and concerned government agencies, Senator Pia S. Cayetano makes a final appeal to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to veto the controversial Vape Deregulation Bill.

Pia lauds DOH, FDA, PMA

Statement of Senator Pia S. Cayetano

  • One of two senators who voted against the Vape Bill in the 18th Congress
  • Principal sponsor, Sin Tax Law of 2020 (RA 11467)

The medical and scientific experts on tobacco and vape control have spoken. And they have unanimously taken a stand against the enactment of the Vape Bill, which seeks to severely weaken government regulations on vapes and e-cigarettes, while endangering public health and our youth’s future.

I laud the Department of Health (DOH), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) for reaffirming their position that the Vape Bill must be vetoed by the President. Thank you for staying true to your mandate as vanguards of public health.

I urge the few doctors supporting the Vape Bill to read the measure in its entirety and answer these questions:

  1. Will the bill’s provisions lowering the age of access to vapes from 21 to 18, and allowing multiple vape flavors to flood the market benefit or harm the youth? and
  2. Will the bill’s provision transferring regulatory authority over vapes from FDA to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) ensure the protection of our people and youth from the harmful effects of vapes? I trust that the truth will help you rethink your stand.

Finally, I reiterate my call to the President to heed the united voice of health authorities and medical doctors to veto the Vape Bill. May we continue to build on our gains and work to create a safer and healthier nation for current and future generations of Filipinos. #

Pia Cayetano
Senator Pia Cayetano has urged President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to heed the united call of government health authorities led by the Department of Health and the Food and Drug Administration, and medical doctors through the Philippine Medical Association to veto the Vape Bill.

A call to veto the Vape Bill

I. SENATOR PIA S. CAYETANO

  • Principal sponsor, Sin Tax Law of 2020 (RA 11467)
  • One of two senators who voted against the Vape Deregulation Bill in the 18th Congress
Senator Pia Cayetano
“Mr. President, veto this bill, allow your secretaries to study them on their own with the proper timing. But for now, the right thing to do is to veto the Vape Bill. Maraming salamat po.” – Senator Pia Cayetano (‘A Call to Veto the Vape Bill’ press conference, July 20, 2022)

This issue is very important to me and I know that time is of the essence. And that’s why we called for this presscon at the last minute. The reason for this press conference is to ensure that the President is properly informed about the Vape Bill.

The proponents of the Vape Bill claim that this Vape Bill is important, supposedly because of the following:

  • The need to regulate versus banning;
  • Revenue generation; and
  • Opportunity for smokers to quit

But the truth is, all of these reasons they mentioned can be achieved without the Vape Bill. Yung issue ng banning and regulation, tapos na yung issue na yun. Congress already decided to regulate, and not to ban.

So when I read in the news advocates of the Vape Bill saying, “kasi wag tayo mag-ban,” [my reaction was] tapos na ang laban na yun. Nalibing na ang laban na yun. We are already regulating e-cigarettes, and the key regulation is already contained in the Sin Tax Law of 2020 (RA 11467).

Tungkol naman sa revenue generation, tapos na rin yun, ginawa ko ang trabaho ko: I was Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means [in the 18th Congress]. Secretary Dominguez of DOF took the lead role in determining this, and we are collecting taxes on the sin products, including the vapes and e-cigs. So huwag n’yong sabihin na kailangan ng Vape Bill to generate revenues because ginagawa na po ngayon yun.

And third, on the opportunity for smokers to quit – the doctors will explain that further. Pero, the important thing is, doon sa mga gumagamit, [dapat] ma-regulate nang maayos para hindi naloloko ang tao na nakakabuti yun sa kanila, and ang mga bata, hindi naman maging first-time users.

What the proponents of the Vape Bill do not say in public is that they don’t like the Sin Tax Law. Gusto nilang baliktarin ang Sin Tax Law. The Sin Tax Law contains the three protective measures that we put in place. Kasi ang debate namin dati ganito, i-ban katulad ng Singapore, Thailand, and a few others. So we had that debate [and we agreed na] i-regulate na lang para may pera din na pumapasok, may revenues ang government, and at the same time, hindi magkaroon ng black market. Papasok din naman sa Pilipinas, eh di regulate na lang, i-tax yan. So yun ang naging desisyon. And in the Sin Tax Law, we put the following protective measures:

  • 21 years old pataas lang ang pwedeng gumamit. My brother, Alan will explain that further later kasi alam ko advocacy niya ang mga kabataan;
  • Limited the flavors to plain tobacco and plain menthol. Alam niyo naman ang nangyari sa US di ba? Lahat ng klaseng flavors – unicorn, rainbow, lahat na – very attractive to the youth. So under the Sin Tax Law, [limited to] plain tobacco and plain menthol lang;
  • And finally, the jurisdiction and regulation is under the FDA. Why? It’s very clear: Food and Drug Administration. Sabi ng batas na yun, anything that is harmful to health will be regulated by the FDA.

That is a law that I passed in 2009 [RA 9711], and the Supreme Court very recently upheld it. Sinabi [ng SC na] FDA ang talagang magre-regulate ng lahat ng harmful sa katawan, including tobacco. Sinabi na ng SC yun.

So this is what the Sin Tax Law contains, and kaya gusto ng proponents ang Vape Bil kasi tinatanggal lahat yan. Sa Vape Bill, ginawang 18 years old, ina-allow ang iba’t ibang flavors, at ginawa nilang ‘health authority’ ang Department of Trade and Industry. Saan naman kayo nakarinig, saang bansa na ang DTI ay may kinalaman sa kalusugan ng tao? Dito po sa Pilipinas! Yan ang nasa Vape Bill.

At yan ang gusto nating maliwanagan ang ating Presidente because he is new, and I acknowledge na when you are new in the office, sa dami ng problema, pwedeng hindi pa niya nalaman lahat ito. Sana po during this press conference, mabigyan natin ng tamang impormasyon ang Presidente para makagawa siya ng tamang desisyon.

And on that note, ilalagay natin on record na in the past administration, the secretaries of various agencies – Cabinet members – supported the veto of this bill.

DOH and FDA ang nanguna d’yan. Si then DepEd Secretary Briones, nagsulat ng position paper urging the President to veto this bill because makakasama nga sa kabataan. And the Department of Finance. So kung pinag-iisipan ng proponents na revenue generation, no less than the Secretary of Finance of the previous administration recommended the veto kasi alam niya hindi kailangan nitong Vape Bill para mag-generate ng income para sa gobyerno. Andoon na yun sa Sin Tax Law.

There is also another procedural issue that is constitutional. Nakakapagtaka na pinasa namin ito noong January, and if you recall, these doctors were with me a month ago [in an earlier press conference held June 23 in the Senate], hindi pa nata-transmit sa office ni President Duterte [ang Vape Bill] at that time.

And then months later, three days before the term of President Duterte ended, saka pa lang na-transmit [ng House of Representatives sa Office of the President]. May kalokohan talaga. And this will raise constitutional issues na siguro naman, ang bagong Presidente natin, kabago-bago ng term niya, [ayaw n’yang] may constitutional issue kaagad, ‘di ba?

So I will end my statement here by simply appealing: Mr. President, veto this bill, allow your secretaries to study them on their own with the proper timing. But for now, the right thing to do is to veto the Vape Bill. Maraming salamat po.#

II. DR. YUL DOROTHEO

  • Executive Director, Southeast Asia Tobacco Alliance (SEATCA)
Veto the Vape Bill presscon
“Walang ebidensya that vapes are significantly less harmful. Studies show it is significantly harmful. This should be regulated by the FDA, not DTI.”

Some doctors claim na ang bill ay makakabuti sa kalusugan ng mga Pilipino. But from a population perspective, based on hundreds of studies, the summary is [e-cigarettes] are not helpful for quitting. The majority of smokers become dual smokers. Mataas din ang chance to relapse [to smoking cigarettes]. Those are the basic lessons from existing evidence.

Smoking is very harmful kung ikukumpara sa ibang bagay. [Pero] walang ebidensya that vapes are significantly less harmful. Studies show it is significantly harmful. This should be regulated by the FDA, not DTI.

Paurong ang [Vape Bill], meron nang existing law [RA 11467] that regulates vapes effectively. How does lowering age protect youth? Industries promoting vapes are the same ones manufacturing cigarettes.

Doctors supporting the Vape Bill have never been involved in tobacco control regulations. Bakit sila ngayon lumalabas? It is really bad for the health of Filipinos.#

III. DR. ERRIC CINCO

  • President, Philippine Heart Association
Veto the Vape Bill presscon
“Cardiovascular systems are the number one cause of death among Filipinos. Vape is associated with 34% more likely to have a heart attack, 25% coronary artery disease, 55% depression and anxiety.”

The Philippine Heart Association is one of many medical associations calling for the veto of the Vape Bill. Cardiovascular systems are the number one cause of death among Filipinos. Vape is associated with 34% more likely to have a heart attack, 25% coronary artery disease, 55% depression and anxiety.#

IV. DRA. MARIA CORAZON AVANCEÑA

  • Head, Task Force on Environmental Hazard, Philippine Academy of Pediatric Pulmonologists

Veto the Vape Bill presscon
“Mr President, whatever laws you plan for the country will be for your children too. Sana sa SONA, isa sa sasabihin is [na-veto ang] Vape Bill.”
Nicotine will affect the part of the brain for memory and higher learning. Our brain is not fully developed until 25. That’s why we want 21 years old as the minimum age of access to vapes. Vape is the gateway to traditional smoking, marijuana, and excessive drinking.

Kayo na may mga anak pamangkin, I’m sure ayaw niyo sila malulong sa vices. Mr President, whatever laws you plan for the country will be for your children too. Sana sa SONA, isa sa sasabihin is veto the Vape Bill.#

V. ATTY. BENEDICT NISPEROS

  • Legal Consultant, Health Justice Philippines
Veto the Vape Bill presscon
“Ang bagong Vape Bill ay pag-reverse ng gains ng tobacco control regulations in the past years.”

We stand for a state policy na kailangan strict regulation. Masama [ang vapes] sa kalusugan, lalo na sa kabataan. May mga batas na po, sapat na po ang Sin Tax Law. May policy na rin, EO 106 prohibiting vapes in public places.

Ang bagong Vape Bill ay pag-reverse ng gains ng tobacco control regulations in the past years.

Sana po sa SONA, bigyan ng regalo ang buong bayan na na-veto Vape Bill, and consider this as a health policy, and hindi bigyan ng chance ang commercial interest in tobacco industry.#

VI. DRA. MARICAR LIMPIN (attended online)

  • Executive Director, Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance-Philippines (FCAP), Philippine College of Physicians
Veto the Vape Bill presscon
“Mr. President, do not listen to the tobacco industry, to the few doctors who do not know ang tunay na dahilan kung bakit gusto namin ma-veto ang Vape bill na ito. It is not true na walang regulation.”

Appealing to veto in its entirety the Vape Bill.

FDA [is mandated] to protect health, particularly against products that affect health. Importante masiguro na tamang ahensya ang mag-regulate [ng e-cigarettes], not DTI, whose function is primarily on trade. It’s not a trade issue, but a health issue. The recently issued decision of SC reaffirmed FDA’s constitutional mandate.

By lowering the age of access, [the Vape Bill] allows the young to be introduced to nicotine addiction. With the removal of the restriction on flavors, mas mae-engganyo ang mga bata na gumamit ng vape.

Mr. President, do not listen to the tobacco industry, to the few doctors who do not know ang tunay na dahilan kung bakit gusto namin ma-veto ang Vape bill na ito. It is not true na walang regulation.

Ang habol natin ay tunay na regulasyon. We are appealing to you to please protect the children. I hope that you will listen to us. We are telling you the science. I hope you listen to the science.#

VII. DR. ANTONIO DANS (attended virtually)

  • Co-Convenor, Health Professionals Alliance against COVID-19
Veto the Vape Bill presscon
“The Vape Bill is a ‘deregulatory’ bill. It is not harm reduction, but harm introduction.”

Under the Duterte administration, DOH supported a veto of this bill, alongside DOST through the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST).

Very few doctors support this bill. They claim that the Vape Bill will make vapes available to millions of smokers. Hindi po ito totoo. The Vape bill is already available in malls, etc. It has been made available not just to smokers – but even to non-smokers.

When you make vapes more available to non-smokers, there is clear and present danger. Studies show 3 effects: 100% increase in risk of smoking in the future; 350% increase in chance that you will take excessive alcohol; 500% chance that non-smokers will engage in use of illicit drugs such as marijuana

The Vape Bill is a ‘deregulatory’ bill. It is not harm reduction, but harm introduction.#

VIII. DR. BENITO ATIENZA (attended virtually)

  • Immediate past president, Philippine Medical Association (PMA)

Veto the Vape Bill presscon
“Nakikiusap po ako sa mamamayan na maniwala sa expert na doctors. Dapat mapag-aralan ng Pangulo ang epekto ng [Vape Bill] sa kabataan.”
Nakikiusap po ako sa mamamayan na maniwala sa expert na doctors.

Dapat mapag-aralan ng Pangulo ang epekto ng [Vape Bill] sa kabataan. May mga batas na. Ang kailangan natin ay political will to support the fight against vapes.

Nakikiisa kami sa DOH at FDA para ma-veto ang Vape Bill.#

IX. SENATOR ALAN CAYETANO

  • Supported the passage of RA 11467 as Speaker of the House in the 18th Congress
Veto the Vape Bill presscon
“This is not the first regulation bill, yun ang deception na pinapairal. This bill is a very bad bill.”

Thanks to Senator Pia for almost single-handedly leading the battle against the Vape Bill in the Senate. [My appeal is let us] follow the science and listen to the doctors. Nagtataka ako nung dumating ang batas na ito: bakit ayaw makinig sa mga doktor?

Why veto the Vape Bill? (presented slides)

This is not the first regulation bill, yun ang deception na pinapairal. This bill is a very bad bill.

I hope CHED (Commission on Higher Education) will speak up, I hope all of the religious groups will bind together to talk about this.

DTI’s function is to promote an industry or product. [If this bill gets passed] the government [will now say] let’s promote vapes, rather than [ensure] it is safe.

Expect na kapag naging batas ito, lahat ng nababagalan sa FDA will now lobby with Congress na ilipat na sila sa DTI. This is the start of the death of FDA kasi kung pwede naman ang vape na DTI, bakit hindi pwede ang food, o paracetamol? Ganun ang magiging logic.

[We should take note that the] US FDA blocked thousands of flavors of e-cigs.

Global Youth Tobacco Survey: 110% increase in vape use among Filipino youth in the last four years

Napakadaling sabihin na it’s less harmful, but the whole story is it is still very harmful.

Masyado nang maraming crisis ngayon. Tulong-tulong muna. The President comes from a tobacco growing region… let us form a coalition that will support him when he vetoes this. #

Pia appeals to PBBM: veto the Vape Bill

20 July 2022
H.E. FERDINAND R. MARCOS, JR.
President, Republic of the Philippines
Malacañang Palace, Manila

Your Excellency:

I am submitting this letter ad cautelam to raise substantial and procedural issues arising from the enrolled bill of the “Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Products Regulation Act,” also referred to as the “Vape Bill.”

The Vape Bill was approved by the 18th Congress, which had its final adjournment on 31 May 2022. [1] The term of its members, both from the House of Representatives and twelve of the members from the Senate, had also ended on 30 June 2022, the same time President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s term as President ended.

Because President Duterte neither affixed his signature to the enrolled bill of the Vape Bill, nor exercised presidential veto over the same, before his term ended, we are placed in a legal quandary of having a bill passed by a Congress, composed of different members, that has been
rendered functus officio by its final adjournment, and submitted to the President whose term has ended, being signed into law by a new President. This would create a serious constitutional issue on the validity of a “law” enacted by a Congress without official authority.

As a health advocate, lawyer, and member of Congress, I am of the sentiment that we should avoid technicalities such as these as much as possible, when courts would be constrained to rule on the laws that we make.

Even setting the procedural and possible constitutional issues aside, I believe that Your Excellency should veto the Vape Bill based on the detrimental effects it would have on the health of our fellow Filipinos, as warned by medical associations and health advocates, former DOH secretaries, and concerned government agencies – Department of Health (DOH), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Department of Finance (DOF), and Department of Education (DepEd). These hazards are apparent from the changes the Vape Bill will bring about in our legal and regulatory framework on the industry of vapes and Heated Tobacco Products (HTPs), as further discussed below.

The proponents of the Vape Bill anchor their position on: (1) vapes and HTPs as being effective cessation tools from cigarette smoking; and (2) the need to regulate the industry.

However, these arguments are fatally flawed because rather than to regulate, the Vape bill actually removes the protective measures already found under Republic Act No. 11467 or the “Sin Tax Reform Act of 2020,” which was enacted into law last 22 January 2020.

The Vape Bill overturns the following key safeguard provisions of the Sin Tax Reform Act, which provided stricter regulations on the products to protect public health:

1) The jurisdiction to regulate vapes and HTPs will be transferred from the FDA to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

It is incomprehensible how the DTI would perform the task of determining the safety of the products that will be on the market. By its very mandate, it is the FDA that has the power and the expertise to regulate this industry.

As a point of reference, the US FDA rejected 55,000 flavored e-cigarettes due to lack of evidence that they have a benefit to adult smokers sufficient enough to overcome the public health threat posed by the alarming levels of youth use of such products. [2]

DTI does not have the mandate and the expertise to determine the health effects of any product, let alone these sin products, which are detrimental to public health.

In fact, vape and HTP users will benefit with the FDA as the regulatory agency, as they will be assured that these products have undergone the appropriate tests based on scientific evidence and established health standards.

2) The prohibition to sell to persons below the age of 21 will be lowered to 18 years old. This means that even our senior high school students will have access to vapes and HTPs. The latest available data from the DepEd would show that there are 1,184,663 learners in senior high and 238,935 learners in junior high, who are at least 18 years old as of SY 2020-2021. By lowering the minimum age of access to vapes from 21 to 18 as mandated by the Vape Bill, the government would send the message to around 1.4 million junior
and senior high school students that it is alright to get hooked on vaping.

Studies have also shown that the brain continues to mature until the age of 25 and that early exposure to nicotine, through vapes and HTPs, could impair the brain’s development. [3]

3) More flavors are allowed, instead of just plain tobacco and plain menthol, which will make these sin products more appealing to the youth.

Vapes and HTPs are being marketed to attract younger people, some of whom have never even smoked a cigarette in their life.

On Regulation vs Ban and Revenue Collection

As a background, Congress had already settled the issue on whether to impose a total ban or to regulate vapes and HTPs during the deliberations on the Sin Tax Reform Act.[4] Both Houses agreed to regulate these sin products by institutionalizing the three (3) aforementioned
crucial protective measures under the said law.

Thus, the government wins by being able to collect much needed revenues from sin taxes, while at the same time minimizing the appeal of the products to the youth with the 21-year age requirement and the limitation of flavors, and it also ensures that there is proper regulation by the FDA.

On the other hand, lowering the minimum age of access to 18 years old will entail more problems for the country in the future. The youth and the next generations after them are possible casualties of vape- and HTP-related diseases. Simply put, the Vape Bill would further increase the cost of related diseases brought about by these products in the Philippines.

International Developments

It is shocking, to say the least, if we consider how differently the United States (US) is addressing the vape pandemic. The US FDA placed Juul’s application for its electronic cigarettes under “additional review.” In order to remain on the market, Juul must prove that their e-cigarettes benefit public health. On the other hand, here in the Philippines, the Vape Bill will allow the relaxation of health protective measures that are already provided under the Sin Tax Reform Act.

If there is one thing this pandemic has taught us, it is the importance of listening to science and the experts when it comes to protecting people’s health. If passed into law, the Vape Bill that is masquerading as a health bill will not only overturn important provisions under the Sin Tax Reform Act, but it will also open the doors for younger people to use these products, and practically encourage such practice in the guise of regulation.

I thus reiterate my urgent call and echo the appeal of more than sixty (60) medical associations and health advocates, former DOH secretaries, and concerned government agencies – DOH, FDA, DOF, and DepEd – to veto the Vape Bill.

We need to listen to health experts on the need to properly regulate vapes and HTPs as these products contain harmful chemicals that affect people’s health. This “regressive measure” goes against all the gains our country has made on tobacco and vape control. In fact, the Vape Bill does not regulate, but actually loosens crucial safeguards and makes these products more available to younger individuals.

Mr. President, I strongly urge you to VETO THE VAPE BILL.

[signed]
PIA S. CAYETANO

Veto the Vape Bill press conference
“If passed into law, the Vape Bill that is masquerading as a health bill will not only overturn important provisions under the Sin Tax Reform Act, but it will also open the doors for younger people to use these products, and practically encourage such practice in the guise of regulation.” – Letter of Senator Pia S. Cayetano to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (dated July 20, 2022)

End notes:

[1] The Vape Bill was passed by both Houses on 26 January 2022, and was officially transmitted to Malacañang by the House of Representatives just this 24 June 2022, or five (5) months after its passage and barely three (3) working days before the end of former President Duterte’s term.

[2] FDA Denies Marketing Applications for About 55,000 Flavored E-Cigarette Products for Failing to Provide Evidence They Appropriately Protect Public Health (2021, August 6). US FDA. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-denies-marketing-applications-about-55000-flavored-e-cigarette-products-failing-provide-evidence

[3] https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/Quick-Facts-on-the-Risks-of-E-cigarettes-for-Kids-Teens-and-Young-Adults.html#two

[4] Cayetano, P. S. (2019, September 30). “Excise Tax on Alcohol Products.” Philippines. Senate of the Philippines. 18th Congress, 1st Regular Session.
https://janus.senate.gov.ph/go/http://vesta/legis/plenary/Documents/Transcripts/18th%20Congress%20(1st%20Regular%20Session)/TSN%20SEPT