Former Health Chief Ona as a Resource Person:


Press Release—Action for Economic Reforms—21 April 2015


[Boston, USA]—Former Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Enrique Ona speaks today at the 2015 Finance Ministerial Leadership Forum at Harvard School of Public Health, to relay to other countries the key ingredients to the success of the Philippines’ Sin Tax Reform Act [RA 10351].

For generating additional revenues and at the same time cutting health-related costs, the Philippines’ Sin Tax Law is recognized by the Harvard School as a model for health policy. The experience in the passage and implementation of the said law is seen as a story worth retelling to leaders all over the world.

This is only one of the numerous international recognitions that the Philippines has earned since the passage of the Sin Tax Law. Just a month ago, the country received two (2) awards in the 16th World Conference on Tobacco or Health (WCTOH) held in Abu Dhabi, UAE. One is the Bloomberg Philanthropies Awards given to Philippines’ Departments of Health and Finance, and the other is the Johns Hopkins Award for Excellence in Tobacco Control Leadership, awarded to Jo-Ann Diosana of Action for Economic Reforms (AER).

After more than two years of implementation, Ona said that the law has significantly reduced smoking and costs due to tobacco-related deaths and diseases among Filipinos especially the poor and the youth, and helped generate huge revenues for social services specifically for Universal Health Care (UHC).

In an interview, Ona explained the uniqueness of his session in the ministerial forum wherein he, a health sector representative, was requested to provide expert insights to Finance ministers in pushing for similar reforms in their respective countries. He said that the presence of a very strong tobacco lobby in the Philippines was a huge hurdle and only when the government and civil society collaborated to emphasize the law’s benefits to health did the campaign fully progressed.

Also present in the same ministerial forum is Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Cesar Purisima. It can be recalled that in his speech in the WCTOH a month ago, he attributed the victorious passage of the long overdue reform to team effort, “whole of government approach and … strong strategic partnerships with civil society, academe, and multilateral institutions”.

The said forum is supported by the Harvard Global Health Delivery Project, a joint initiative of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and Harvard Business School. This institution is developing a case study on the Philippine Sin Tax law experience for global health professionals to learn from.