Pia urges equal opportunities for women

Women should be given equal opportunities in leadership and decision making, including in the military establishment.

This was underscored by Senator Pia S. Cayetano in her interpellation of the proposed budget of the Department of National Defense (DND), held around midnight of Friday (November 11).

Opening her interpellation, Cayetano inquired whether the women military officers who were seated in the session hall audience gallery were part of the DND leadership at the VIP gallery assisting the defense budget’s sponsor, Senator Ronald Bato Dela Rosa.

“Mr President, I direct my question to the Chairman [Sen Dela Rosa]. I suppose the people beside you, except for the women here, and behind here [referring to women officers seated in the gallery], are all part of the leadership of DND, correct? Is there any woman in the leadership group?” she asked.

To which the sponsor, Senator Dela Rosa, replied that it is the protocol of the military estabishment to to take care of women, and to not place them at the ‘frontline.’

“That is a gentlemanly answer. Pero that can be a form of discrimination because, [in] your desire to protect [women], you may not be giving them the opportunities to advance in their career to prove themselves. I do not put any malice there, I believe you,” Cayetano said.

“I will share with you the same comments I make when I talk to a governor or a mayor, and I ask about gender equality and women representation in their political parties, and they say to me, ‘ay ito ma’am, may isa kaming babae.’ [But] we are not talking about one – we’re talking about serious representation,” she stressed.

In response, Dela Rosa noted that the military’s chief nurse and surgeon-general are both women one-star generals. He also shared that female cadets now comprise 25 percent in the Philppine Military Academy (PMA).

“And maybe starting next year or the following year, you will see more female officers holding sensitive positions. Dahil yung mga female graduate na babae are already full colonels. And so they will be holding command positions, like brigade commander. We have battalion commanders who are female,” Dela Rosa explained.

Cayetano acknowledged the information shared by Dela Rosa: With the background you gave me, I am quite confident. And to emphasize my point, that is Sustainable Development Goal 5. Target 5.5 states that we ‘ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunity for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic, and public life.'”

“The [military service] used to be a man’s world, but it’s a world where we know we will do better if women have equal representation,” she concluded. #

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. #

A call for sustainability

Speech calling for the promotion of sustainability practices in the Senate

We recently passed Republic Act No. 11898, otherwise known as the Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR) Act of the EPR, which amends the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, requiring large-scale enterprises to recover the plastic packaging wastes they produce.

The sponsor of the measure, Sen. Cynthia Villar, is here. I mentioned to her that I will be delivering this speech and, of course, the original sponsor of the law, RA 9003, the Solid Waste Management Act, is no other than Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda.

I also authored and sponsored a law requiring that it is taught in school, and it is included in the curriculum, for the students to understand the importance of the environment, and this be tailored to the particular areas where they live.

In the hearing on the EPR, DENR stated that 21 million tonnes of solid waste was generated in 2019. 21 million tonnes. About 10.55% of this are plastics.

Sen. Villar, in her opening statement, said almost 164 million pieces of sachets are used in the Philippines daily, equating to around 59.7 billion pieces of sachets yearly. Wow, that’s overwhelming. Nung bata ako, and umamin kayo ng edad niyo, wala namang sachet. Kapag pumunta ka sa tindahan, ang meron naman doon, garapon, tapos sa loob ng garapon, andoon ang kailangan mo. Iisa-isa. Ngayon, uso na si sachet.

Sen. Villar further stated that the amount of wastes in the country has reached 18.05 million tonnes, with Metro Manila contributing 26% of this waste generation. She further states, our wastes are composed of the following:

•50% are biodegradable, in a sense that is good news, we just have to segregate that better;
•15% are plastics;
•15% are paper; and
•20% are miscellaneous

Alright. With this data, let’s now look inward and ask ourselves, what can we do in our own institutions, in our work-home, to address this?

Dear colleagues, we don’t just suddenly wake up to a sustainable lifestyle. This happens, and I am now calling the attention of the athletes in the Senate, which include the birthday boy, Majority Floor Leader Sen. Joel Villanueva, the Chairman of the Committee on Finance Sen. Sonny Angara, ang ating mga avid basketball players, being able to play well on the court, in the field, doesn’t happen overnight. It starts with day-to-day habits, day-to-day changes which may seem small at first but collectively and overtime, they result in big changes.

As your Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Sustainable Development Goals, Innovation, and Futures Thinking, it is my duty to bring the concept of sustainability into the discussions and debates every day. We should take sustainability in consideration in how we work and conduct business in the Senate, and ideally outside of the Senate as well.

Also, I’d like to introduce the concept of intergenerational fairness, where we put ourselves 20-30 years or more into the future. There is a country… they look at intergenerational fairness 7 generations away. Ako nga sabi ko nga, kahit 20-30 years happy na ako. We look into the future and prepare for a future that the next generation will thank us for. And our laws must reflect this.

So what have we done in the Senate? In 2010, upon my initiative and in partnership with a non-governmental office, Mother Earth Foundation, we created a Materials Recovery Facility, which was set up in the Senate parking lot. For those who don’t know, a Materials Recovery Facility takes the place of a dump. In other words, in that facility, sine-segregate. So if you look closely at the photos, and maybe next time, I will ask instead of a collage, separate photos to see clearly, segregated are the PET bottles, cartons, papers, and other types of trash that come out of our offices, dear colleagues. These come out of our offices. Hindi ito galing sa ibang lugar. These came out of our offices noong 2010. I doubt if there is much difference, umiinom pa rin tayo ng tubig, gumagamit pa rin tayo ng papel, so malamang, ganoon pa rin yun.

But the good news is, after this was created in 2010, and this included a program that allowed us to comply, we had a no waste segregation, no collection policy, which means kung hindi tayo mag-segregate sa kanya-kanyang opisina natin, hindi iko-collect ang basura. The result was amazing. It resulted in a 50 percent reduction in the solid waste generated by the Senate, as reported by the General Service Department one month after. The frequency of hauling services was also reduced from once a week to once every two weeks, twice a month na lang naghahakot sa atin. So nabawasan ang contribution ng basura natin sa Pilipinas.

In the 18th Congress, I also held hearings on SDG 12, on responsible consumption and production, before the pandemic. The idea was to explore solutions on reducing plastic wastes and other wastes. As I said, the EPR is now a law, and although the focus is on the responsibility of large producers that use plastic packaging such as sachets, food containers, single-use plastics, including plastic bags, straws, cutlery and more, as the sponsor of the measure, Sen. Villar said, this does not prevent the medium and small sized companies from embarking on the same measure to contribute to a better country, a better planet.

So this is where the challenge lies, dear colleagues. Paano naman tayo? Paano naman ang contribution natin? This is something that we need to think about and that is the subject of my privilege speech. Especially during the time of COVID, dumami talaga ang single-use plastic, pati ang mga take out containers and mga COVID-related wastes. The medical waste created by COVID should really be the subject of another speech. I’d be happy to deliver it, unless somebody else would like to do that. During the pandemic, I also raised the issue of improper disposal with DENR. So like I said, we can talk about this another time.

So, one of the first manifestations I made in the 18th Congress is to return to the better practices that we initiated in 2011, and this includes, among many others, going paperless. So dear colleagues, I will illustrate for you…

I’ll put on the record, Sen. Jinggoy, Sen. Angara, Sen. Villar, Sen. Robin, nataranta na tulungan ako, and Sen. Robinhood even offered to carry me as well…

Anyway, dear colleagues, example lang ito. Order of business, journal. Every day, you will see that on your table. Every day, andyan yan. I leave it up to you if you read this during session, during the night, your staff reads it. Kanya-kanyang style yun. But in the last Congress, I requested na hindi na ako bigyan. I would read it on my Ipad, to save on paper. But I don’t impose that on anyone. It is a choice that you make. Now, is it hard to transfer to digital?

Dear colleagues, I defended all the tax measures digitally. So kung kinaya ko yun, kaya natin. It was a challenge, believe me. And to think I am a visual person, I am literally the type of person that needs different colored post-its. Pero kaya, if we want. But I am not saying it has to be that way. Everybody should do whatever they are comfortable with. But I illustrated this to show you that this is the kind of paper we generate. In a few months… This is Sen. Mark Villar’s folder that I stole. In a few months, all of this will be filled with bills and resolutions. This will be full, for the information of our new colleagues, mapupuno yan. The binder is a three-inch binder. Mapupuno yan, hindi mo na yan ma-flip. Is it even the copy that you use to write your notes? Most likely, hindi. Most likely, you will have another set of notes. So we all have to decide what we can do on our own, to do our part in lessening the paper. Again, there will be the MRF anyway, so kung ano naman ang ginamit natin, madadala din naman sa MRF and ire-recyle.

Now that is with respect to paper. With respect to tumblers, and I wanna show 2 pictures, I am very proud of my colleagues, nilubos-lubos niyo ang niregalo ko sa inyo na bamboo tumblers. Maraming salamat.

I was very proud and my colleagues were also very proud, Sen. Grace would show it to me, Sen. Manny, and many of you who are not even in the video, would use it. And I am sure buhay pa yan somewhere in your office and in your homes.

On that note, before I go to my next point, I wanna show the other slide, which is where one of my call to action comes in, which is the hearings. Nanawagan din tayo at nasunod naman na naging policy that we don’t use PET bottles in the hearings. And we actually put in the invitation to attend the hearing a notice to the resource persons to bring their own tumbler because we have a water dispenser. Sinunod naman nila. So I’d really like that to be imposed, that we continue to do this so that we can really make a difference in the country.

Now, for the sake of our new colleagues, I will also provide you with my gift to help you become more sustainable. So, I’ve asked Sen. Robin Padilla to help me carry, kaya ko naman buhatin but I don’t mind na may assistant akong tumutulong sa akin, mga personalized bottles para po sa inyong lahat, para talagang manindigan tayo sa ating trabaho na maging examples.

Actually, Sen. Bong Go has his [bamboo tumbler], thank you. That’s the proof of sustainability. Now my other demo, Sen. Robin, pahingi ng isang sample. Ayan. Okay, ito ang sa ‘yo. Dito ka sa tabi ko please para makita ng Senate President.

My dear colleagues, itong hawak ni Sen. Robin, 24 ounces. Imagine, ito ang bigay ko sa dating Congress, mas maliit, pero 3 years na, ginagamit pa. Dear colleagues, tingnan niyo naman ito [shows plastic pet bottles], itong apat, laman lang ng isa. So sa isang araw na nakikipagdebate tayo, madaling umubos ng apat, diba? So sa isang araw pa lang, tipid na tayo sa apat. Multiply that by the number of days, sa dami ng away, sa dami ng debate, kailangan uminom ng tubig, yun ho ang purpose nun, to illustrate. Thank you very much.

And then, on a further note, ito naman was just brought about by a conversation with Sen. Loren yesterday, I’d like to thank her because in our lounge today, nagdala siya ng sariling ani ng kanyang farm. At kinain na ni Sen. Robin kanina, yung mga lettuce, kung ano-ano andoon. Tapos nakita niya ang kinakain ko, sabi niya saan galing ang kinakain mo, sabi ko baon ko.

Ito naman ang baunan ko [shows lunch bag]. So if you noticed, lahat ng nagpapa-birthday, kinain ko pa nung gabi ang pa-birthday niyo kasi binabaon ko ang mga tira-tira natin doon, and of course, we also share that with whoever. I am just saying na mula noong grade school ako, may baon baon akong lunchbox, may baon pa rin akong lunchbox, Shopee lang ito. Kung sino may gusto, ako na bahala sa inyo, let me know kung gusto niyo rin magbaon. Especially the bachelors living alone, pero baka naman may nagluluto na para sa ating bachelors. Bahala na kayo doon…

So, Mr. President, if I may end with my call to action. Let’s ban the use of PET bottles in the Senate. But, well, encourage and request everyone to bring their own jug because if they plan to drink and be hydrated while they are here, then they can do that. What the Senate can do, and I will happily donate 100 jugs, hindi naman siguro ganitong personalized, pero I will have 100 more there in case nakalimutan mo. Hindi, baso lang naman pala. Baso lang sa sariling mga office natin, diba? Kung hindi kayo magdadala ng sarili niyong bottles or jugs.

Ban the use of sachets. Medyo maayos naman magpasweldo ang Senate, hindi ho ba? Kanino ko ba ide-direct ang tanong ko, to the Senate President or accounts chair? But I think maayos magpasweldo ang Senate. Siguro hindi naman tayo nagtitipid na naka-sachet, we can afford to buy the bigger containers of soap, dishwashing detergent, whatever, so that we can be more economical in the use of these kinds of products which tend to come in sachets, and are sometimes the go-to. We can also ban that in the Senate, your honors.

And then, yung no waste, no segregation pickup. Again, like I said, sustainability does not happen overnight. For this to happen, kailangan tayo mag-retrain. And we should get experts to help in every office to train us so that we can live that way. Sen. Loren is nodding her head, baka siya na mismo mag-offer. But anyway, like I said, the Senate has worked with a foundation, Mother Earth trained us to do that.

The other one, which is not an imposition, but maybe we can ask the Secretariat to continually study and make their own recommendations. But maybe we can have a team that makes these kinds of recommendations so that we will be always looking for ways to live and work more sustainably. And this should be data driven. So ang request ko, after we decide on all of this, let’s have data to show how many PET bottles did we no longer buy.

I am not saying we should not support the companies that provide us with distilled, mineral water. They can still provide that with the 5-gallon containers, that’s all I am saying. Hindi naman po sinasabing mag-DIY tayong lahat. Meron pwedeng i-DIY, meron din naman pwedeng binibili pa rin sa recognized suppliers. So that’s my point. I mean I know we have a gender office, [but] do we have a sustainability office? Maybe we can, maybe the Senate President can put together, maybe Sen. Loren, maybe you want to be the one to show it or ako na? Gift niya sa akin, okay. So nagregalo siya sa akin ng wooden, bamboo spoon and fork. So as my speech ends, magme-merienda na ako… I love it, the straw. Alam ko, umamin kayo, marami sa inyo mahilig sa milk tea, ayan na, huwag na kayong gumamit ng plastic straw. Not only is it not biodegradable, but it can actually choke marine animals and the soft plastic can strangle them, napipilay sila, it gets woven around their feet. Meron pa pala ditong bottle cleaner.

Okay, I think that comes to the end of my speech, your honors. I also have tumblers for the Secretariat. Pero doon sa ibang staff, pwede kanya-kanya na kayong regalo sa mga staff niyo? Bibigay ko na lang ang pangalan ng iba’t ibang supplier.

Thank you, Mr. President. #

In a privilege speech, Senator Pia Cayetano said the Senate can lead by example in promoting sustainability and environment-friendly practices, such as banning pet water bottles in sessions and hearings, and reducing the use of paper. Assisted by Senator Robinhood Padilla, Senator Pia gave personalized water tumblers to her colleagues and Senate officials in plenary.

August is Breastfeeding Month

Privilege speech on Breastfeeding Month

For almost 20 years, I’ve delivered a breastfeeding speech in August. It is personal to me as a breastfeeding mom and the policy issue I’ve been advocating for years.

But, Mr. President, much has changed over the years, we’ve passed laws that promoted breastfeeding and raised awareness. Social media has also helped the younger generation of mothers and fathers proceed with breastfeeding and allowed it to be more acceptable, in the sense that many mothers would tend to be embarrassed to breastfeed outside the confines of their homes.

But I’ve also noticed, Mr. President, that there is a younger generation of fathers here in the Senate, including the Senate President, who are now role models of being supportive fathers and husbands. And I’d like to commend every single one of you. And there is a serious reason for that.

May I just say, the gentleman sitting beside me, Sen. Bato, is always the first one to raise his hand when I ask for volunteers… When I was a new senator, I was in my 30’s, a lot of gentlemen in the Senate laughed when I talked about breastfeeding. It is not a laughing matter but I had experienced that, and I was offended. But I was too young to speak up in a way to show that I was offended. So I proceeded with my job, and I am just so happy that I now work with younger or older gentlemen in the Senate..[who are] very supportive.

So why does breastfeeding need to be discussed on the Senate floor? Is it a subject of legislation? Yes it is, and I’ll get to that in a while. But considering that it is the best way to nourish an infant, and it is a natural immunization, more so it should be discussed because there are policy issues involved.

I would like to share my personal breastfeeding journey, and I hope that through my own experience, I can illustrate the challenges that a mother goes through just to breastfeed her baby, which should be the most natural thing in the world.

So when I was pregnant, Mr. President, I decided that I should buy my own books, because I did not grow up learning about it in school. Yes we had science education, but no one talked about the benefits of breastfeeding. Thankfully, I saw my mom breastfeed my brothers, but other than knowing that for a fact and having a general idea that it was good for infants, I didn’t know anything else. So I bought books, and books, and books.

Interestingly, the doctors did not tell me to breastfeed. My OB actually said to me, it’s up to me, pwedeng yes pwedeng no. She’s very nice, very senior, but she did not in any way tell me that there are so many benefits to it. Walang ganun, Mr. President. My pediatrician naman was very supportive.

So, I gave birth and breastfed on day one, and I breastfed throughout my entire 60-day maternity leave. As a runner, I had no guidance, I did not know how I could continue running while breastfeeding an infant, and wala pang cellphone noon, so what I would do is I would breastfeed and run for only 30 minutes because my baby might get hungry while I’m still out running and my mom would go crazy because we did not have infant formula in the house. I specifically did not purchase infant formula with the intention of sticking to my plan to breastfeed. So I did this on my own. Marami dyan, kapa-kapa lang.

Meanwhile, I lived in Taguig with my brother, Alan. It was a 2-bedroom house and my mom pretty much moved into Alan’s room and was his roommate during the entire time of my maternity leave and a few months after to help me take care of my baby because I was fully breastfeeding. So habang nag-aaral si Alan, ang mommy ko, pinapatulog niya ang baby ko, at binibigay sa akin kapag umiiyak na dahil ako naman ang magpapakain.

So after 60 days, I went back to work, and I was so blessed to work in a law office, Castillo-Laman Tan-Pantaleon law offices, where they were very supportive, considering that I was the first associate and probably the first employee to [breastfeed] while working.

So how did that work? I took phone calls on speaker phone while manually using a pump. Wala pa akong electric pump that time. I locked my door, I was blessed enough to have my own room, made sure the curtains were closed so that no one could see me, and alert my secretary that if my door is locked and my curtains are down, no one could come in but I could take phone calls. And then I proceeded to take the bottle of freshly pumped milk in the common freezer. But then shortly after, nangamoy ulam ang breastmilk na ibibigay ko sa baby ko. So after that, I decided to bring my own cooler [for storing breast milk]. So that was my life for a few months, into actually a whole year. I proudly breastfed my two daughters for a whole year.

After my second daughter, I had a baby who had multiple disabilities and had a cleft lip but I also breastfed him. I breastfed him, I pumped my milk and it was given to him through a tube, that went straight down to his stomach because my son could not digest milk or anything else.

So if anyone went through the difficulties of breastfeeding, I am sure a lot of mothers would have other stories to tell, but I had my own, which I wanted to spread into the record. Because this is what encouraged me to make legislation that would help mothers breastfeed as long as they wanted to.

So quick history: when I became a senator, there was already EO 51, this is known as the Philippine Milk Code, and what it does is it regulates the marketing of infant milk formula. I could leave it at that, but I would like to share the knowledge I learned in my first year in the Senate. This is so critical because dear colleagues. What happened in many hospitals, both government and private is that infant formula companies would give, even donate, their milk to hospitals for the newborns, and interfere with what should have been a natural breastfeeding process.

For the information of those who are not familiar, breastfeeding supply is based on supply and demand. The more the mother breastfeeds, the more milk she would produce. So kapag binigyan mo ng infant formula yan, mababawasan ang pagbigay niya ng sariling gatas, dahil may ibang napapagkunan and unti-unting mawawala ang kanyang breastmilk supply. So that is why kailangan ma-regulate ang marketing of infant formula.

The other thing is, dear colleagues, and I hope when you go home tonight, tomorrow, you look around, you’ll see a lot of advertisements of brands that claim na tatalino ang baby nila doon sa gatas na yun. Hindi po totoo yun. Ang totoo, tatalino ang baby niyo doon sa gatas ng ina. Yun ang pinaka-effective. Yun talaga yun. So we also want to ensure that the marketing also goes through the highest standard.

When I became a senator in 2004, there was also a 1992 law, RA No. 7600, or the Rooming-In and Breastfeeding Act, which was adopted by no less than my idol, the late Senator Ed Angara. I was quite surprised because I expected maybe somebody like Sen. Flavier, but when I learned that it was Sen. Angara who passed it, it was very heartening for me that a male senator was actually the one who passed it. And having already given birth, I realized how important this is. This law basically says that in every hospital, immediately upon birth, kailangan itabi ang baby sa mommy para agad-agad maka-breastfeed. So this law was really a game changer, your honor.

And I also learned, I’d say parliamentary procedures through the late senator, because my bill was actually called by another name, and he very statesman-likely guided me in the amendments of my bill so that it would be simply an amendment to the existing RA 7600, which he authored. He just helped me make this bill flow better, a very important lesson as a new senator.

So that is the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act (Ra 10028) that I already am talking about, which basically provided new features to the Rooming-In Act and under the Breastfeeding Promotion Act, I would say the critical features here are the setting up of lactation centers in public places and private and government offices. Again, this was, and I believe is still a game changer. When you look around, and those of you, for the gentlemen here with young wives, they can find a lactation or breastfeeding room in the malls. You can now find it in the airport. You can even find it in terminals for ferries, I actually saw a beautiful one in Bohol terminal years ago. So this makes it easier for mothers to continue breastfeeding.

I have had the experience of having to lock myself in a restroom that had its own door and about 20 people banging on the door to tell me to get out of the room because I was breastfeeding. And I understand, they needed to use the toilet, but during those days, there were no breastfeeding rooms, your honor, so this is just the kind of change that makes lives better for breastfeeding moms.

In addition, in the workplace, this law also provided for lactation breaks. It’s basically 40 minutes in addition to your usual meal breaks. I would’ve wanted more, I tried to push for more, but we tried to strike a balance with industry that obviously was hesitant to give more breaks to their staff. But now, it is a right of every breastfeeding mother to use an additional 40 minutes to pump her milk and take it home to her baby.

And at this point, I would like to point out that… we need to implement our laws in our own home. So the Senate actually has its own lactation room. We put this up I think around 2014-2015. It’s on the 5th floor and I’d like to include here my request that the GAD office place posters as they did before in the entrance to the Senate, so that resource persons, other persons who have business in the Senate, know that they can use that room. I’ve actually had the opportunity to be thanked by a resource person, this was pre-COVID, who was very happy to sit in on a 6-hour hearing. There was a lactation room that she could go to in the Senate.

And when I was a member of the House, I also worked with the Secretariat to put up a lactation room, and this was continued by Sen. Alan Cayetano when he was Speaker of the House.

It is very important for these kinds of laws to be supported and implemented on the ground. And I am very happy to see other examples, and the example I will give is, of course, Taguig. In Taguig City, the Taguig hospital has actually received, way back in 2013, almost 10 years ago, recognition as a mother- and baby-friendly hospital. And there is a 10-point requirement to be able to do that. I am sure there are others, I am just aware of the one in Taguig, and I hope DOH will make this public so that we can also acknowledge the other hospitals that are compliant. And for those that are not, may I call on the DOH to work closely with the city health officials of various cities and provinces to bring them up to speed.

The success of breastfeeding will really depend on the people who are surrounding the mother who can continue to encourage her to breastfeed. It is actually the cheapest way to nourish a baby and it is also their first immunization against various kinds of ailment. In fact, the leading cause of death for infant mortality, if I am not mistaken, is water-borne diseases, which is directly related to bottle feeding. Kasi kapag hinihugasan ang bote at hindi tama ang paghugas, doon nagkakaroon ng water-borne diseases, samantalang kapag nag-breastfeed, there is no contamination, nothing to wash, it is simply safer for babies.

And I also wanted to point out that in Taguig City, and I’ve also launched similar programs in Cebu and other parts of the country, there is a human milk bank. So in 2015, Taguig City established its human milk bank, which screens and then pasteurizes donors’ milk for families whose mothers cannot make milk available to their babies. So this is a big help for the babies whose mothers actually died or are sick, or are still recuperating, and also for babies who are left. We’ve already covered that in another law with Sen. Grace and Sen. Risa. So again, as an example, in Taguig City, 376 bottles of milk that were pumped by Taguig women were donated to infants in need after the Taal Volcano erupted.

And, even during the pandemic, there were also donated breast milk to infants in need. I’d like to emphasize this, since the evidence shows that according to WHO, [to he COVID-19 virus] was not detected in the breastmilk of any mother with confirmed or suspected COVID-19. They have not detected COVID-19 and it seems to be unlikely that COVID-19 would be transmitted through breastfeeding. So as we have known, but of course, it is better to be supported with evidence, breastfeeding even during the time of COVID is still very much recommended.

So Mr. President, I think I will end there. I just want to emphasize that I share my personal journey… Oh sorry, I knew I forgot something. There are a number of laws that also support breastfeeding. But what I want to emphasize is the 105-Day Expanded Maternity Leave Law. This is very crucial because from my own experience, and then from the experience of the women staff who work with me, I really saw with my own eyes that 60 days is not enough to leave your baby and go back to work especially if you are continuing to breastfeed. I really had a lot of problems going back to work, that included breast engorgement. This is very, very painful, fever, and it just very difficult. So with 105 days, we gave the mother an additional 45 days to continue breastfeeding, and when the mother goes back to work, her breastmilk supply is usually definitely much more established and it’s easier for her to continue breastfeeding.

So I end my privilege speech on this note and I thank the members of the Senate for the support that I have seen growing for breastfeeding throughout the years. Thank you, Mr. President. #

Senate breastfeeding room
File photo: The Senate breastfeeding room which was launched in 2014.

Honoring the late FVR

Mr. President, in the next few days, we will see a deluge of much well-deserved praises for the late former President Fidel V. Ramos.

I filed Senate Resolution No. 90 to honor FVR and to convey the Senate’s sympathy on the passing of this great man.

I quote from parts of my resolution: “President Ramos’ background and legacy of public service remain peerless: he was an honor graduate at the United States Military Academy at Westpoint, veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars, Presidential Assistant on Military Affairs, Vice Chief of Staff and later acting Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine Constabulary, Integrated National Police Chief, EDSA 1 icon, AFP Chief, Secretary of the Department of National Defense, 12th President of the Republic of the Philippines, peace and leadership advocate and statesman.”

President Ramos advocated for and was instrumental in the deregulation of key industries, the liberalization of the economy, the privatization of public entities, and encouraging the entry of foreign investments.

In fact, under his administration, we embarked on an ambitious development plan dubbed as the Philippines 2000, which opened up the economy, encouraged private enterprise, invited foreign and domestic investment, and reduced widespread corruption.

But beyond all of this, FVR was a good friend to the family. He would call my dad [the late Senator Renato L. Cayetano] at his usual time, which was at the crack of dawn, for those who know him. My dad at that time was a private practicing lawyer, and he invited my dad to seek his counsel. My dad was an afternoon golfer, so that early morning in the dark calltime was not his normal calltime, but he gladly said yes to the President.

[Note: begins to show photo slides] So that’s a photo of dad and that’s actually Alan [Senator Alan S. Cayetano] there on the left side. Mapayat pa siya nun, so you might recognize some of the people there. I am pausing so our colleagues can laugh at Alan’s photos, which they are doing.

And he is not a golfer so I don’t know why he’s there. My two other brothers, Ren, who’s actually a golfer, I think was on the fairway many times with President Ramos, and Lino was also a golfer. Si Alan, pulitiko kaya andyan. Ako wala, I was a private citizen.

But I digress, and I move on. As I was saying, my dad heeded these early morning invitations to play golf, and we knew that the President trusted his counsel and it was just a matter of time that he made my dad his Chief Legal Counsel. And so in the next few years, this is a photo of my dad’s oath taking, I was behind my dad… I was actually carrying my daughter who was barely one year old… This was in 1995, midway through the President’s term, when he asked my dad to be his legal counsel. It was a dream job for my father. He had loved being a lawyer and he loved giving advice to the President. And I believe they still continued to play golf early in the morning.

So, a few years later, in 1998, the President asked my dad to run for the Senate, which he did. And the rest was history, my dad was a senator from 1998 to 2003. And my father passed away in 2003.

Shortly after that, I became the person to seek the late President FVR’s counsel. Alan and I went to him and sought his advice on my bid to run for the Senate. So if I listened carefully to the earlier speeches before me, clearly, he is instrumental, for better or for worse, for a lot of members being in this Senate today. May I put on record yung sabi ni Sen. Imee, “Oo nga.” Because it is true, a lot of people went to see him and asked for his advice.

Anyway, he continued to counsel my brother and I, and I think Alan has his share of his own stories. I continue to visit him. And I’d love to hear if any of you have had this experience, or baka it’s just my experience, because it’s my common bond with the President. May ‘push-up challenge’ siya. Did any of you experience that or was it just me because pareho kami? Si Sen. Lito, nag-thumbs up so nasama siya sa push-up challenge.

But interestingly, I was so game to take the push-up challenge but I think I must have been on a skirt, because for whatever reason, or because he just wanted to be a gentleman, he asked my security to perform the push-ups and my security maybe was not that young but not that old, maybe 50, but FVR clearly would have been in his 70s, and he performed it flawlessly. Yung talagang push-up hanggang dibdib na deretsong deretso ang katawan, and then, he looked like he could go on and on.

But that is a personal story that I share because he was a beacon of fitness. He was known to wake up hours before the crack of dawn to run for fitness. Like me, he believed that a healthy body supported a healthy mind. And then, from what I know, he proceeded to devour the news and only then I think would the sun rise, and he would officially start his day, which would still be earlier than many of us would be comfortable with.

I’ve known him to be such a hard worker, very demanding on, I think it was Sen. Loren who mentioned, complete staff work na I’m sure panalangin natin lahat ng senador sa staff din natin, complete staff work.

And I also heard stories na meron siyang mga small pieces of paper na doon niya sinusulat, tapos dinudukot niya sa bulsa niya yun, yung maliliit niyang reminder sa sarili niya at sa kasama niya.

And then, years later, I would actually see him joining races, running 5 kilometers and the like in races.

So I am about to come to an end on my tribute to FVR. Around 2010, 2011, I wrote a book to honor my father. I asked FVR to be the guest speaker when I launched the book, this is called, ‘To Dream the Impossible Dream,’ because my father’s dream was to serve his country. And in a large way, the late President Fidel Ramos gave my father that break, to fulfill his dream to serve his country. So this was me and my family, my father was no longer around, and I’d like to think that through the opportunities that the late President Fidel Ramos gave my father, and later to me, and even to Alan, we continue to fulfill our father’s impossible dream.

And so let me end on this note: interestingly, all my colleagues in the 18th Congress know, and for the new ones, if you don’t know yet, you’ll know soon enough, that my passion is sustainable development, and the Committee I chair is SDGs, Innovation, and Futures Thinking. And as I was reading through the late FVR’s accomplishments, one of them is something that will continue to guide me today. He established the Philippine Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD). Interestingly, and how many years ago was that? Hindi pa naninindigan si Sen. Loren for climate change, andyan na si FVR for sustainable development. I mean that to also honor Sen. Loren. I am just saying the late FVR has also been doing this for so long.

And let me just read a portion of that from my resolution: “FVR established the Philippine Council for Sustainable Development to integrate sustainable development parameters in the country’s development efforts, to ensure that the country’s economic agendas are not pursued at the expense of the environment. And when we speak of the environment, it’s not just the physical environment, but it’s everything else: human health, gender equality, and so on and so forth.”

And so I end this by sincerely offering our condolences to the family and all the people he loved, who loved him, and I pray that this tribute that we have, I hope will be repeated again and again, if not for days, for months, but for years to come, because he truly was an inspiration for our youth to emulate.

Thank you, Mr. President. #

Run for the Pasig River 2008
File photo: Former President Fidel V. Ramos, former First Lady Amelita ‘Ming’ Ramos (chairperson, Clean and Green Foundation) and Sen. Pia Cayetano award the female winners of the Philippine Marathon for the Pasig River (2008).

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.”

Opening session manifestation

Manifestation of Senator Pia Cayetano
Opening Session of the 19th Congress

Thank you, Mr. Presiding Officer.

Let me congratulate our newly elected Senate President. May the records show that I also did not cast my vote in favor of my esteemed colleague. At this point, I would like to remain independent. I will also not participate or cast my vote on any minority leader.

But as I have told the Senate President, he knows my commitment for the amazing work that the Senate will produce. He knows that I will participate and ensure that nothing less than excellent work will come out of this Senate.

Thank you. #

Senator Pia Cayetano
Senator Pia Cayetano on being an independent member of the Upper Chamber: “I will participate and ensure that nothing less than excellent work will come out of this Senate.”

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.