/ 21 May 2021

Public health and children’s rights advocates decried the hasty approval of House Bill 9007 which seeks to regulate the manufacture, sale and use of electronic nicotine devices and other heated tobacco products.

HB 9007 was approved on second reading on Wednesday after only three sessions since the bill was sponsored and opened for interpellation and amendments.

Health authorities, medical experts and advocates of public health and children’s rights including the Child Rights Network and its convener, the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development, expressed disappointment in the approval of the bill.

They said that the opinions of the legal and medical experts, including those from the Philippine Pediatric Society, Department of Health, Food and Drug Administration, World Health Organization, were ignored during the committee hearings jointly led by the Committee on Trade and Industry and the Committee on Health.

“Medical experts, legal experts, health advocates, and advocates of children’s rights participated in the TWG meetings, reached out to legislators, pleaded not to dilute the safeguards found in existing laws and regulations. But we were ignored, we were never heard, while the suggestions of the representatives of the industry were easily accepted,” Rom Dongeto, executive director of PLCPD and convenor of the Child Rights Network, said.

“Health has taken a back seat in the bill with trade being given initial priority and health as secondary,” Muntinlupa Representative Ruffy Biazon said.

Biazon and other pro-health legislators said that ENDS and HTPs must not be treated as regular consumer products but hazardous products that have negative health effects.

“Although I was one of the original authors of the bill in the 17th and 18th Congress, I have since requested that my name be excluded from the list of authors in the committee-approved consolidated bill, principally because the bill is inconsistent with the principle and purpose for which I crafted the bill that I filed,” Biazon said.

Garcia, Vergara and other legislators including Rep. Geraldine Roman of Bataan, Rep. Mark Go of Baguio City, and Rep. Gabriel Bordado of Camarines Sur shared the same sentiment.

Advocates called on legislators to reject HB 9007.

“If enacted, this will endanger the health and wellbeing of children and young people. Our health and the future of our young people are in the hands of our legislators. It is such a shame that they are passing this kind of bill in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, when legislators must prioritize laws that protect the health of the Filipino people,” Dongeto said.