Press Release
September 26, 2019


Note: Transcript of statements of DOF USec Karl Chua and DOH USec Eric Domingo to follow.

Opening Statement

SPSC: Good afternoon, everyone. We're ready to answer your questions that you may have on the sponsorship speech and the committee report. It's just the beginning of the first phase of Package 2+, alcohol products and e-cigs and vapes.

So the interpellation will start next week and my sponsorship speech, I think, was self explanatory. It's a product of the input that I gathered from all the hearings and consultations we had.

It takes into consideration that these are products that are harmful to health. They are differently situated - the e-cigs and vapes from alcohol. So I won't generalize. But they are basically products that either have scientifically proven harms on people's health, even on social health. And so that's the reason why we use taxation as a tool to curb the demand for this.

But it is just a tool and there are other tools that must also be carried out by different agencies of government.

So I'll leave it at that and then I'll be ready to answer other questions you have. Thank you.


Q: How much revenue is the bill hoping to generate?

PSC: When it comes to numbers, I defer to them. But just confirm this, Usec. Karl (Chua), na the reason na napakababa ng e-cig and HTPs kasi hindi pa naman nag-full blown commercialization yan.

So if you say na, "Ah, so the bulk of the income you expect to receive is alcohol," hindi naman sa ganun. It's just that the business is just taking off and yet we are already so scared of what we're seeing.

I didn't include it in my speech. But you hear we talk about it a lot. Even my chief of staff said that her 13-year-old son tells her that his classmates are using e-cigs and vapes. So I am so scared. My son is 9. So that's a few years away that he'll be surrounded by this as a normal part of day-to-day life.

Q: Do you expect a strong opposition here in the Senate?

PSC: Actually, I don't think there will be strong opposition in terms of what we hope to achieve. I think we are all one in wanting to provide an environment that is safer and healthier for Filipino families.

But I am pretty sure there will be debates on the rates itself. On the rates, I am sure there will be different ideas on what's the best way to go about it.

In fact, I am already predicting that when it comes to e-cigs, there is really that push from the industry that e-cigs is a safer alternative. But what you will recall in my speech, I said that the health advocates, including the DOH, reminds us that safer does not mean safe, does not mean risk-free. So I also took that into consideration in my final recommendation in my Committee Report.

But like I said, I am happy to explain this further with my colleagues in the days to come during the period of interpellation.

Q: Can you expound on how this can also help address saving passive smokers and as far as drinkers are concerned, violence, accidents...?

PSC: My background in policymaking has been in the committees that look into the conditions of the lives of women, children, families, those who have been affected by health problems. So we know very well that if there is a person who has an alcohol problem, he affects the people he deals with directly, indirectly.

Indirectly, meaning, hindi naman niya kilala itong taong ito sa EDSA, pero nasagasaan, sira ang buhay dahil namatay na yung taong yun and this is the breadwinner, so those two people never encountered each other, but in one reckless moment in time, lives will be changed forever, including that person who was driving, who could otherwise be a fairly responsible, productive person but made a bad judgment.

Because precisely, alcohol is very accessible.

Another example I want to use is, I'm not sure if it was Usec. Domingo's example or somebody else from the medical community. They showed us a picture of three teenagers, nag-inuman sa kanto, nag-tandem ride sa motor, patay silang lahat. Teenagers, they lives have not even began. Because of one night of drinking, it's over.

That's with the alcohol. When it comes to smoking, like I said, the science on e-cigs and vapes is still developing as we speak. We are producing these products, variants of these products, faster than the science is available to tell us what's safe and what's not safe; what's safer or not safe at all.

So, if I as a policymaker, have to make a decision, I will have to veer on the side of caution. That is what any responsible parent would have to do, and any responsible policymaker. So inasmuch as we also have medical resource persons who tell us that totoo, and I have spoken to them myself, that they have used e-cigs or vapes as a device to quit smoking, but this is under the guidance of a health practitioner. So to make it available in public is another thing. Because the most vulnerable are children, teens, and young people.

And when I say young people, I include 22-year-olds, 25-year-olds, because they are still young people, some of whom never smoked but suddenly think vaping is cool.

SO these are the people who are now affected. Kasi, I also read into the record, and I ask you to take time to read it, it was a behavioral scientist who said that the e-cig and vaping culture really attracts our teenagers because this is what teen life is all about. They like new things, they like challenges, they like creating new things. And the nature of the e-cigs and vaping is you can create your own concoctions and combinations. So it's very attractive to them.

One other point, in terms of the smoke or no-smoke. There is also evidence that says that it is as harmful - and again, I let the medical community be the one to speak, I am just reporting what they told us - that it is as harmful to a third person, to an individual sitting there.

And that's my concern. Because the example I always use is that I was pregnant at a time where people would still be smoking indoors. So I had to endure inhaling smoke when I was pregnant, because I was a lowly fresh graduated lawyer, and I had to attend board meetings.

So God forbid, I said, that now I raise my children in a smoke-free environment - and my two young daughters who will be entering the corporate world or the business world anytime soon - would now be subjected to these e-cigs, smoke-free daw or whatever. And yet yun pala malalaman natin same amount of harm.

So that's my concern. And so, we should veer on the side of caution and regulate.

Q: Ano po ang timeline niyo for this? Can you still pass it before the end of the year?

PSC: Ang sa akin naman, I always respond to what I can vouch for or what I can be responsible for. I can be responsible for being available during the period of interpellation. We have three days next week before we go on break. After that, I will be going to WHO in Geneva and other parts of Europe to further study this matter.

And then when we resume, we will have a couple of weeks for the budget but in between, I will also be ready for interpellations.

So I am prepared. If I can answer all their questions, then of course we can pass it. It's up to my colleagues. Conclusion

PSC: Ipahabol ko na rin, on that concern, I like being close to the ground. I'll remind you all of the video that was included in my sponsorship speech. Real people yun, tinanong nila, tinanong natin kung okay sa kanilang tumaas. Sabi nila, "Eh umiinom talaga kami, eh 'di parang it is what it is, diba? They'll go with the flow."

So I challenge other groups to conduct their own studies, pero we got that directly from the horse's mouth, sa mga tao. And then, just on my own also because yun nga, I have kids that age, college age, young professionals. And sabi nga nila, iinom at iinom talaga. So kahit tumaas ang presyo, iinom pa rin yan.

But what we're hoping the effect will be is mabawasan ang binge drinking, mabawasan yung one more bottle or one more shot. Kasi yung ano naman, yung responsible drinking, yun lang naman ang habol natin, that we become champions of responsible drinking. Huwag naman the number one consumer of alcohol. It's not something that we should be proud of.

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