The Philippines has assured the international community that it will continue to undertake efforts against tobacco use in the country.

Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Hubert Dominic Guevara stated that the Philippines will continue to engage constructive dialogues, collaboration and share its experiences with fellow Parties of the Conference to overcome various challenges in realizing the goals of the Convention in terms of tobacco control.

Guevara said President Marcos has underscored the importance of a tailored, multi-sectoral approach to the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) implementation.

Guevara, whose speech was delivered by Presidential Communications Office (PCO) Assistant Secretary for Digital Media and Communications Patricia Kayle Martin in Panama, said the Philippines welcomes the positive strides that parties have made, but also acknowledged the remaining challenges.

He noted that the Philippines has made notable progress in implementing WHO FCTC as he highlighted that the Philippine Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) reported a significant decrease in tobacco use from 23.8 percent in 2015 to 19.5 percent in 2021.

“This key achievement is the result of a collective and balance approach, with whole-of-society and whole-of-government efforts in advocating for and implementing effective policies and legislative measures,” Guevara said.He highlighted the enactment of Republic Act No. 11900, or the Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Products Regulation Act, which established a regulatory framework for the importation, manufacture, sale, packaging, distribution, use, and communication of vaporized nicotine and non-nicotine products and other novel tobacco products.

The RA 11900 is an addition to the various legislative measures in place such as the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003, the Graphic Health Warning Law, and Excise Tax Laws on novel tobacco products, among others, Guevara added.

“This new law safeguards minors by restricting the sale, including online trade, distribution and marketing of these products and prohibits tobacco product-related activities within a hundred meters of schools, playgrounds, and facilities frequented by minors,” Guevarra said.

He also cited that the Philippines “has consistently increased excise tax rates on cigarettes and tobacco products, making cigarettes less affordable, and consequently decreasing consumption.”

“In addition, the Philippines is currently in the process of enacting legislation entitled ‘Anti-Agricultural Economic Sabotage Act’ that declares smuggling of tobacco as economic sabotage and aims to illicit tobacco trade in the Philippines,” Guevara added.