Philippines Bags 3 International Awards for Tobacco Control
Press release—Action for Economic Reforms—21 March 2015
The Philippines gets three (3) prestigious awards in the 16th World Conference on Tobacco or Health (WCTOH) held last March 17 to 21, 2015, in Abu Dhabi, UAE. The national government, a local government unit (LGU), and a civil society organization (CSO) were each recognized in the WCTOH, the world’s biggest gathering of health advocates, professionals, academics, and policy-makers, for championing tobacco control policies in the Philippines.
On behalf of the Philippine government, the Departments of Finance (DOF) and Health (DOH) received one (1) of the six (6) Bloomberg Philanthropies Awards for the passage of the Sin Tax Reform Act (RA 10351) in 2012, which effectively increased tobacco taxes and reduced smoking among Filipinos. Michael Bloomberg emphasized that raising tobacco taxes is considered the single most effective measure to reduce smoking and described the Philippines’ case as an “example for countries around the world.”
Relatedly, Senior Economist of Action for Economic Reforms (AER), Jo-Ann Diosana, was given the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Award for excellence in tobacco control leadership. Diosana’s video entry, which was chosen by the awards panel to be one of the top three (3) winners from more than 40 entries world-wide, recounted how the AER-led Sin Tax coalition successfully advocated for the passage of the law.
In his speech delivered by DOF Undersecretary Jeremias Paul, Secretary Cesar Purisima 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”.
Diosana likewise echoed the significance of government’s openness to engage all relevant sectors in policy-making. “It was crucial that the broad coalition that pushed for the law involved all stakeholders including health advocates and professionals, economists, business groups, academe, farmers, youth organizations, and the media” said Diosana.
Undersecretary Paul emphasized the importance of President Benigno S. Aquino III’s political will “to counter vested interests and strong lobbies to achieve what is best for the country’s health and future.” Regarded as a win for “better fiscal and public health”, the Sin Tax Law has achieved both its revenue and health objectives in the first two years of implementation.
Confirming the value of government-CSO partnership in making effective policies is the success story of Balanga City’s holistic smoke-free program led by Mayor Joet Garcia, who also received the Johns Hopkins Award. FCTC Alliance Philippines (FCAP), the organization who witnessed Balanga’s progress throughout the years of their partnership, commended Mayor Garcia’s commitment to ensuring his people’s welfare.
Lastly, as Undersecretary Paul reiterated, “while much has been achieved, a lot more has to be done.” This was supported by Michael Bloomberg saying that “we have to stand together and support one another, especially those working against the toughest odds to protect peoples’ health.”
The conference was attended by 3,000 delegates from more than 100 countries.