Locsin’s Pro-Tobacco remarks at WHO conference ‘Shameful, Insulting’ – Former Health Chiefs, Medical Groups

In a rare show of force, Philippine medical associations condemn the Foreign Affairs Secretary’s statement praising tobacco companies before the World Health Organization

“Nagkalát ang delegasyon ng Pilipinas… Nakakahiya at nakakalungkot (The Philippine delegation was a big mess. Shameful and depressing).”

This was the strong statement of former health secretaries and over forty medical and civil society groups on Sunday as they criticized Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary (DFA) Teodoro ‘Teddy Boy’ Locsin, Jr.’s remarks during the recently-concluded ninth Conference of the Parties (COP9) of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).

“We… strongly denounce the position of the Philippine delegation,” said the statement led by former health chiefs Esperanza Cabral, Paulyn Ubial, Carmencita Reodica, and Antonio Periquet. According to them, the Philippine delegation’s position led by Locsin “welcomed tobacco companies and their fronts and echoed their unscientific and profit-driven claims on e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products”.

Locsin during the country’s official report touted vapes and e-cigarettes as “less harmful”. The top diplomat also praised tobacco companies for their “innovation in creating products that deliver satisfaction but with far less harm.”

“This is a shameful and painful insult to the families of the more than 320 Filipinos who die daily due to tobacco-related diseases,” the former health chiefs’ statement also said, co-signed by top medical associations like the Philippine Medical Association, Philippine College of Physicians, Philippine College of Chest Physicians, Philippine Pediatric Society, and the Philippine Neurological Society.

PH has given 3 ‘Dirty Ashtrays’

During the COP9, the Philippine government was also the recipient of a total of three ‘Dirty Ashtray’ Awards, a lampoon award given by the international watchdog Framework Convention Alliance to companies and governments seen as peddlers of tobacco industry interests. “The lampoon award is proof of the strong and rising tobacco industry interference in the Philippine government,” said the medical groups’ statement.

“It also proves that tobacco interests are front and center in the delegation’s agenda, while public health interests, the professional opinion of doctors and health experts, and even national government health authorities are sidelined and ignored,” according to them. The Department of Health (DOH), in a separate statement, opposed the DFA-led position.

“We condemn the brazen act to sideline the Philippine tobacco control agenda during the [COP9]. Especially in a pandemic, the government must help the medical community reaffirm rather than disregard the right of Filipinos to the highest standard of health,” medical and civil society groups’ statement said. They also urged the President to “establish the DOH as the permanent lead in advancing public health interests” at the WHO FCTC.

“The government must protect and prioritize the health of all Filipinos over tobacco industry profit,” their statement concluded. ###