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.#

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.

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

Stronger law, institutions needed to defeat human trafficking

By Senator Pia S. Cayetano
Principal author, Republic Act 11862
Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act

I laud the signing of the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2022 (RA 11862). This amends and reinforces our previous law vs. human trafficking (RA 9208) which was crafted in 2003.

As its principal author, I pushed for this measure to bring our 2003 law up to speed by making liable internet and financial intermediaries who knowingly, or through gross negligence, allow themselves to be used for the purpose of promoting and committing trafficking in persons.

The complexity of ever-evolving digital technologies stresses the need to update our policies and equip our law enforcers with the necessary powers to go after perpetrators of human trafficking, and those who aid them.

By reinforcing our laws and our institutions, we hope to build a safer environment for future generations, and swiftly bring to justice those who profit from the exploitation and abuse of society’s most vulnerable sectors, particularly women and children.

Human trafficking persists not just because of greed, but also poverty, which drives victims to extreme measures for money. And so aside from strengthening enforcement, we must support the recovery and rehabilitation of trafficking survivors, and their reintegration to society.

This law is the product of the collective efforts of advocates committed to win the battle against human trafficking. I thank former justice undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay Villar for working with us on these amendments and Senator Risa Hontiveros, who sponsored this measure.#

Senator Pia Cayetano in plenary
“By reinforcing our laws and our institutions, we hope to build a safer environment for future generations, and swiftly bring to justice those who profit from the exploitation and abuse of society’s most vulnerable sectors, particularly women and children.”

Pia to vape bill proponents: stop spreading lies

The Vape Bill does not protect the youth 

By Senator Pia S. Cayetano
Sponsor, Sin Tax Reform Law of 2020 (RA 11467)

I urge the proponents of the Vape Bill to stop claiming that their measure is beneficial to the youth. That’s a blatant lie.

The proponents say that their bill “[solidifies] the provisions of RA 11467 and Executive Order 106” by strengthening the flavor ban on e-cigarettes. If that was the case, then they should have just kept the provision of the Sin Tax Law – which limits vape flavors to plain tobacco and plain menthol only.

Instead, they provided wording that allows hundreds and thousands of flavors to flood the market. How will they even regulate all these flavors? In the US, 55,000 flavors were rejected by the US FDA for failing to provide evidence that they protect public health. Kaya ba natin gawin yun dito? Eh tinanggal pa nga nila sa bill nila ang FDA bilang regulatory body sa e-cigarettes at flavors.

The youth would have been better protected if we retained the access to these harmful products at 21 years old but instead, they made it easier for the youth to access the same. The Sin Tax Reform Law of 2020 placed this at 21 years old, but the Vape Bill lowered it to 18 years old, so now even senior high school students can buy and use vapes. So where’s the ‘protection’ for the youth that the Vape Bill proponents claim? #

Senator Pia Cayetano
Senator Pia Cayetano: “I urge the proponents of the Vape Bill to stop claiming that their measure is beneficial to the youth. That’s a blatant lie.”

Strengthening partnerships in education

Speech for the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations of the Philippines (COCOPEA)

By Senator Pia S. Cayetano

Chair, Senate Ways and Means Committee
Sponsor, Republic Act No. 11635, granting preferential tax rates for proprietary educational institutions

Good afternoon, everyone! Thank you for having me and taking time to include me in this event, where you are taking note of the work that we’ve done. Thank you for the very kind introduction.

There’s not much really to say for me on this topic. I won’t go through it as you all know what the law is about. I think what I’d like to do now is to focus on the need for further collaboration between COCOPEA and the legislative side of government.

In my case, there are just so many laws that I feel can be implemented better. Obviously, we would like your input on how we can improve the delivery of education on these issues as well.

This law that we have just passed is evidence of our ability to work together and to address the concerns that you have. I have always said that the private sector, and of course, COCOPEA, is at the lead in terms of the group of members that you have. The private sector is our partner in the delivery of education to the Filipino people.

So your wellbeing is important to us. Because your being able to deliver your mandate effectively also allows us to also deliver our mandate as provided by the Constitution.

I’d like to point out a few issues which I feel are important, because this is just what we have done in the past months. And the outcome of that is really, like I said, just one of the many things that we can do together if we put our minds to it.

I’ll just mention some of these concerns that I have personally taken note of:

•Teen pregnancy

It’s very important that we address this concern. Not just in our country, but all over the world, teen pregnancy is still a big issue. And we already know that when we have teen pregnancies, the victim here is usually the girl because she carries out that pregnancy and her whole future is put on the line. So we must be able to educate our young people and even our teachers. The delivery of education should have that confidence and the ability to address this concern.

•Youth’s exposure to vices

The other item that I wanted to discuss is exposure to vices. Cigarettes and the new hazards, which is vaping, I hope that you can all be on board in raising awareness on the dangers of these products. Vapes are not the safer alternative for young people. There is no safer alternative to young people. It is not correct that I see so many young people thinking that this is safer for them than cigarettes, that is not the case. So I hope you can also be on board in bringing awareness to this. And of course, there is still alcohol and drugs that we need to be conscious of.

•Inclusive learning

And then, of course, there is equal access to those students who have special needs. I know that in a developing country, this really entails costs that are not part of our regular budgeting process. But I hope in due time, we can continue to strengthen our institutions so that we can address the needs of these children with special needs.

•Futures thinking for education

And then very important to me, for those who may not know, I chair a new committee in the Senate, it’s the Committee on Sustainable Development Goals, Innovation, and Futures Thinking. And it is because of my exposure to experts in this field that my knowledge has grown, I continue to be a student in search of more knowledge. But I really embrace the belief that we need to change our system of education. We can’t do it overnight, but every day we must be making steps towards the realization of our goals for these children. And really, there is no one size fits all. The more we can customize the delivery of education for the special talents and (for) the full potential of young learners, the closer we will be to really having a productive next generation.

So that is really the goal, that we are able to shift from the more traditional delivery of education to more understanding of what the special talents are, and the interests and talents these young children are born with, that we develop their skills in communication, collaboration, creativity, and so on and so forth.

•Mental health

And then the awareness on mental health issues. I know we have all become more conscious of it during this time of COVID. These had always been concerns, but there is more acceptance now on the importance of mental health, and not just physical health.

•Sports and fitness

And speaking of physical health, as many of you know, I am an avid sports advocate. I love sports myself, I engage in sports, I encourage sports among everyone of all ages, and I do believe that there is room to increase the role of sports in our curriculum, in our day-to-day life in schools. I know some schools may not have facilities that can provide a venue for all kinds of sports, but in one way or another, there are ways that we can make our children fall in love with physical activities, with being active. Especially in our country, which is gifted with beautiful outdoors. We should be able to do more of that.

So those are just a few of my top-of-mind concerns that I think we can all work with, not necessarily legislation, but really just either implementing existing laws, implementing existing policies, and if there are best practices out there, by all means, share them. We would really like to highlight these best practices in any of the areas that I’ve mentioned, and even more.

So on that note, once again, it’s been a pleasure. I always like working with associations that are very organized, that have their data. Maraming salamat for also making my work easier. So on that note, again thank you for this opportunity to serve our country better. Thank you. #

Education leaders
Senator Pia Cayetano stresses the importance of stronger partnerships in education in her speech before the assembly of private school organizations.
Senate Ways and Means Chair Sen. Pia Cayetano sponsored RA 11635, the law entitling all private schools to the preferential tax rate.

Pia: It’s high time we strengthen the law to end child rape

Senator Pia S. Cayetano on Monday welcomed the approval on third and final reading of Senate Bill No. 2332, which seeks to amend the Anti-Rape Law to raise the minimum age of sexual consent from the current 12 years old to 16.

“This amendment is long overdue. It’s high time we strengthen the law to end child rape,” said the senator, who is a co-sponsor of the measure.

At the same time, Cayetano lauded the inclusion of the so-called ‘Romeo and Juliet’ or ‘close-in-age’ clause in the approved bill, which will protect the rights of young people who get involved in consensual and non-abusive sexual relations.

“The Romeo and Juliet clause is integral to the bill.” Quoting a statement from the Child Rights Network, the senator explained that the Romeo and Juliet clause “ensures that the law on statutory rape does not criminalize consensual and non-abusive sex between people close in age. This protects young people from being labeled as sex offenders” if they do have consensual sex with their peers.  This position is also supported by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and backed by various civil society groups. #

Senator Pia Cayetano
Senator Pia S. Cayetano lauds the passage of SBN 2332, which amends the Anti-Rape Law to raise the minimum age of sexual consent from 12 years old to 16.

Statement on the resumption of training for student-athletes

I’d like to join the coaches and other stakeholders in expressing my serious concerns on the resumption of training for college and university student-athletes during this time of COVID-19.

Let’s start with the law, Republic Act 10676 also known as the Student-Athletes Protection Act,  which I principally authored and sponsored. Section 2 of the law provides that student-athletes are first & foremost students. It further states that the obligation of schools & athletic associations to ensure that they attain quality education should remain a priority.

So before we even start talking about the resumption of training, let me ask, how is their schooling? Are they getting the support they need for their education? I know many of them have returned to their homes in the provinces where access to WiFi might be weak or even non-existent. Many of them are also scholars and are in need of financial assistance. How about tutorials? In pre-COVID times, many athletes would spend at least 12 hours a week training, hours that other students spend studying. Some had access to tutorials then. What about now, when both online and modular education are faced with even more challenges?

As a former student-athlete and member of the PH Women’s Volleyball Team, and also as a mother of two student-athletes, I have always believed in prioritizing studies over training. It’s all about finding balance. Has that changed now because of COVID-19? Because all this talk about training without any mention of the educational needs of the student-athletes seems to be a distortion of our priorities.

I also happen to chair the Senate Finance l Subcommittee that oversees the proposed budget for higher education. I’m very cognizant of the concerns of colleges & universities in ensuring the safety and protection of students, teachers, and employees against the COVID-19 virus.  Thus, as early as the budget hearings I held in September, I have already expressed my concern about this issue when I first heard about the possible resumption of student-athletes’ training.

Professional sports associations such as the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and the Philippine Football League (PFL) already started training and conducting games. And despite the safety and security measures that they implemented, a PBA player and 9 PFL players were recently diagnosed with COVID-19 in their pro league bubbles. Are the schools prepared to spend for the bubbles, the isolated quarters, and the regular testing, in addition to the usual training expenses?  From my own experience as a soccer mom, many schools cannot even ensure a sufficient budget for the medical expenses incurred by their student-athletes.  How will they take on the full responsibility of securing the welfare of student-athletes, many of whom are below 21 years old, if they get mass infected by the virus?

These incidents reveal that while we still do not have a vaccine for COVID-19, the risks of transmission & infection are high, even in sports leagues & training bubbles administered by professional leagues, where strict health & safety protocols are being observed and spent for.

The move to resume training was justified by the need for student-athletes to be “mentally and physically fit.” But why are we limiting it to student-athletes? Don’t all students have the right to be mentally and physically fit?

I’m all for being fit & recognizing exercise as a vital component of mental health, especially during this time of COVID-19. This should be a program for all students that can be integrated in their study schedules from home. Breathing exercises, yoga stretches, cardio and strength training that do not require much space and equipment can easily be designed by fitness experts. But to resume student-athletes’ training in an unsecured environment is an entirely different matter. I’m glad many coaches also aired their concerns. Like many, I’m an avid UAAP fan who looks forward to weekends of watching games but this would have to wait.#

Nat’l Academy of Sports: Dream comes true for Filipino athletes

Statement welcoming the signing of the National Academy of Sports Act

By Senator Pia S. Cayetano
Principal author and co-sponsor, RA 11470

Ten years after I first filed the Philippine High School for Sports (PHSS) bill, it is now a law! Republic Act No. 11470, renamed as the National Academy of Sports, was signed into law by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte today.

I thank our President and all my colleagues in the Senate and House who made significant contributions to this law and for making this a reality.

I have always believed that sports can transform lives and uplift communities. As a former student-athlete and national team player for volleyball, this measure is close to my heart, and has been part of my advocacy for a decade. I remember filing my first version of this proposal back in 2010, based on an idea shared by Fr. Carmelo “Tito” Caluag. Then a member of the House of Representatives, Senator Sonny Angara also filed a similar bill in the Bigger House.

Over the years, I have visited national training centers and high schools for sports in other countries. These centers have allowed their young student-athletes to pursue their passion in sports, get the training they need, and still stay in school. We have so much talent all over the country, but for many student-athletes, it has always been a choice – to study or to train. Now they can have both!

With the enactment of this law, we are a step closer towards building a better future for millions of young Filipinos who have the potential to excel both in sports and in life. They can now receive world-class training while pursuing their academic education. The COVID-19 pandemic may have changed much of the way we live, but it will just be a matter of time that our athletes will be back training in full force.

This law will certainly open more doors for our youth, including opportunities for college scholarships and the chance to represent our country. But beyond this is the opportunity to build their character and teach them values like hard work and discipline through sports, which will prepare them for a brighter future ahead. These young athletes will bring honor to their families and hometowns, and will become our next generation of homegrown heroes!

The National Academy of Sports will be instrumental in cultivating national pride. Training with the best in the country will elevate our young athletes’ level of  performance in regional and international sports competitions. This will enable us to build on our recent victory in the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games. The foundation has been laid; the time has come to build a nation of winners. And we will continue to win as one! #

Senator Pia S. Cayetano trains with female members of the Philippine Heptathlon Team at the indoor track facility of the New Clark City Athletic Stadium.
Senator Pia Cayetano was one of the earliest supporters of the country’s budding national gymnastics program that produced Carlos Yulo, the most bemedalled Filipino athlete of the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.
With world-class pole-vaulter EJ Obiena, one of the Philippines’ gold medal hopefuls for the Tokyo Olympic games, which have been moved to July 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bukidnon’s pride heptathlete Sarah Dequinan and long-distance runner Christine Hallasgo personify the wealth of athletic potential among the Filipino youth, especially in the provinces.
The National Academy of Sports will rise at the sprawling New Clark City complex in Capas, Tarlac. File photo of Senator Pia Cayetano with triathlete John Chicano, who won the Philippines’ first gold at the 2019 SEA Games, and officials and partners of the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) led by Chair Vince Dizon at the world-class New Clark City Aquatics Center.
Serving for Philippine sports then and now: Former national volleyball player-turned-lawyer-and-senator Pia Cayetano credits her sports training for her discipline and character.
Working with House and Senate colleagues at the bicameral conference committee meeting on the National Academy of Sports bill.