DOH Press Release | 11 February 2024

The Tenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP10) to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) finished with a historic decision to protect the environment and the health of people worldwide from tobacco waste. Parties (countries who have joined) also decided to strengthen guidelines on cross-border tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, and the depiction of tobacco in the entertainment media.

The Conference of the Parties is the governing body of the WHO FCTC, which is the first international treaty negotiated under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO). The Philippines signed the WHO FCTC on September 23, 2003, and then ratified it on June 6, 2005.

Representatives from 142 Parties gathered in Panama City, Panama from February 5 to 10, 2024 to tackle a range of issues from progress on implementation of the treaty to the regulation of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. The Philippine delegation was headed by Senior Deputy Executive Secretary (SDES) Atty. Hubert Guevara. He was joined by officials and staff from the Departments of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Interior and Local Government (DILG), Trade and Industry (DTI), Agriculture (DA) together with the National Tobacco Administration (NTA), Education (DepEd), and Health (DOH) together with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Also in attendance were Rep. Rodante D. Marcoleta (SAGIP Party List Representative) and Secretary Mark Llandro Mendoza of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO).

“At the start of the Conference, Brazil proposed to add to the agenda an item about Article 18 of the WHO FCTC, which addresses concerns regarding the serious risks posed by tobacco growing to human health and to the environment. We joined the consensus of the Parties to address the environmental impacts from the cultivation, manufacture, consumption and waste disposal of tobacco products – including plastic cigarette filters,” said OIC Assistant Secretary Dr. Albert Domingo from the DOH.

Health Undersecretary and DOH Chief of Staff Dr. Lilibeth C. David also discussed the success of the Philippines in increasing excise taxes on tobacco, resulting in a win-win of revenue for UHC and decreased smoking prevalence. At a side meeting on the State of Tobacco Taxation: Latest Global Developments and Outlook, participants and experts agreed that moving forward, while an absolute ban is best, in countries that regulate vaporized nicotine and non-nicotine products their excise taxes should be one and the same as those imposed on conventional tobacco products.

The Philippines also actively participated in deliberations on another important decision at COP10 – to strengthen guidelines on cross-border tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (TAPS), and the depiction of tobacco in the entertainment media. The delegation took a position that out of respect for Philippine law and the laws of similarly situated parties, and to enable strong and coordinated implementation, there should be approaches for both countries who ban TAPS outright and for those who restrict.

COP10 also adopted the Panama Declaration, which draws attention to the fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the interests of the tobacco industry and the interests of public health. The Declaration also makes clear the need for policy coherence within governments to comply with the requirements of Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC, which aims to protect public health policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry.

“The Department of Health acknowledges the helpful guidance of SDES Hubert Guevara in leading the Philippine delegation to strong positions on tobacco control given the requirements of our national law. We look forward to working with our colleagues from the whole of our government on implementing our international commitments to tobacco control back home. The DOH will lead tobacco control, dahil ang bawat buhay ay mahalaga,” said Undersecretary David.