BALANGA CITY, BATAAN—As part of its continuing efforts to strengthen FCTC implementation in the county, The Department of Health (DOH) hosted the year-end tobacco control stakeholders meeting which focused on the advocacy journey to date and assessed continuing multisectoral efforts in curbing the tobacco epidemic.
Conducted a day after the Committee Hearing on Sin Tax Reform 2, the activity was an opportune time for the tobacco control stakeholders to intensify efforts on tobacco control. Usec. Rolando Enrique Domingo emphasized in his speech that “Despite the hail of challenges and lobbyists against this worthy cause, tobacco control is moving forward and this is because of YOU”.
“We want the topmost result for the advocacy through monitoring of the progress of efforts and be able to revisit our plans for the following year. We want to address gaps and challenges, as well as modify the plans that should be redirected given the developments in various factors affecting the advocacy,” said Ms. Maylene Beltran, Director of the Bureau of International Health Cooperation of the DOH. 
“Focusing on the progress, on the advocacy journey, rather than just the destination is key tobacco control activity. This gives us the right context and ensures that we are on track and that changes in strategies may be needed,” she added. 
Following the success of the 1st World Health Organization-Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC) Partners meeting held last June, representatives from different government agencies and civil society organizations reconvened on November 28 to 29, and put their accomplishments on the table and identified the remaining gaps vis-à-vis the collective work plan. 
Some of the notable accomplishments listed this year is the launching of the FCTC hub in the DOH website, which aims to make available all relevant policies, campaign materials and articles on FCTC. The site also provides link to websites of international partners and civil society organizations; the continued lobbying for the passage of the Universal Health Care Bill; preliminary meetings for the issuance of the third set of Graphic Health Warnings; and the publication of the tobacco industry interference index. 
Together with key officials and public servants from the Department of Health, representatives were from national government agencies such as Department of Health, Food and Drug Administration, Department of Education, Civil Service Commission, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Finance, Department of Agriculture, Department of Budget and Management, Department of Justice, Department of Tourism, Metro Manila Development Authority. 
Representatives from civil society organizations were also present: Action on Smoking and Health Philippines, Health Justice Philippines, New Vois Association of the Philippines, Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance, and International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease.
Balanga City, Bataan was chosen as the venue of this 2nd FCTC Partners meeting since Balanga City has initiated anti-tobacco control measures which are now being sustained by the city government under the leadership Mayor Francis Anthony Garcia. This indeed is a constant reminder that no amount of challenge can shake ones commitment to achieving our goal of protecting the health of our people.