Press Release— Action for Economic Reforms— May 28, 2012

Cancer advocates and sectoral figures are pressing lawmakers to pass HB 5727 to protect the health of millions of Filipinos from a global smoking epidemic.

During the Cancer Stakeholders Consultative Meeting last May 25, Moving as One— a consortium of health advocates and medical organizations— outlined an action plan for supporting cancer prevention initiatives being undertaken in the Philippines. At the forefront of these initiatives is the Abaya sin tax bill currently experiencing plenary debates at the House of Representatives.

In their manifesto of support, Moving as One members called for “the urgent passage of HB 5727.” HB 5727, they maintained, is “pro-health”— not only by discouraging both smoking and drinking habits by imposing higher excise taxes, but also by raising revenues to support the Universal Health Care Program.

Said the manifesto: “Tobacco’s linkage to lung cancer is one of the most widely known harmful effects on human health of smoking. There are more than 4000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, of which at least 240 are known to be harmful and more than 50 are known to cause cancer.”

According to Dr. John Juliard Go, an event resource speaker and a Technical Officer for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) of WHO Philippines, NCDs are currently the world’s biggest killers— accounting for almost 60% of total mortalities. Chronic tobacco use and exposure remains one of the leading causes of all these deaths.

In his study published by the Philippine Institute of Development Studies in 2012, Go emphasized, “The growing dominance of NCDs as major causes of death in emerging economies. In 2007, majority of deaths in the Philippines are attributed to NCDs.”

“There is growing concern that NCD’s are now shifting to the poor segments, specifically the urban poor,” noted the WHO official. “There is also a concern on the ‘risky’ practices of young adolescents (i.e. higher consumption of smoking).”

Prominent cancer advocates and notable medical and media professionals were among those who signed the consortium’s new manifesto of support for HB 5727. These included Moving as One Coordinator Dr. Cecilia Llave, ICANSERVE Founder Kara Alikapala, Vera Files journalist Ellen Tordesillas, UP Manila Vice Chancellor Dr. Abundio Balgos, Inquirer columnist Rina Jimenez David, Bureau of Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon, Department of Health Consultant Dr. Tony Leachon and Philippine College of Chest Physicians (PCCP) Advocacy Committee Chair Dr. Maricar Limpin.

Joining them also were representatives from partner organizations like the Cancer Institute Foundation, New Vois Association of the Philippines, Philippine General Hospital (PGH) Cancer Institute, Cancer Prevention Center, and the Philippine Society of Oncologists.

As the battle for the sin tax reforms rages on in the Lower House, Moving as One forms the newest ally of the growing movement to defend the Philippine’s young and poor from a brewing national health catastrophe in smoking-related diseases.

Together, the consortium members called on the general public to pressure legislators to pass HB 5727, and curb the consumption of the number one cause of death in the Philippines today: cigarette smoking.

For a glimpse at the Moving as One Manifest, please click here.