Philippines: Ban foreign lobby groups, govt urged

Philippines: Ban foreign lobby groups, govt urged

CONSUMER groups promoting e-cigarettes and tobacco harm reduction asked the government to ban foreign groups that provide grants to influence local policies.

Nicotine Consumers Union of the Philippines Inc. (NCUP) and advocacy groups like the Philippine E-Cigarette Industry Association (PECIA) and Vaper AKO said the country should follow India’s lead in banning non-government organizations involved in tobacco control lobbying.

The groups said that in the past five years, India banned 14,500 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for reportedly acting against its interests.

“It is important that authorities are informed properly about the purpose of foreign grants and how such funds are being used in the country to promote national interest,” NCUP President Anton Israel said. “NGOs are supposed to be partners of the government in nation-building, and not as conduits of foreign organizations.”

In October last year, an official of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) admitted that the agency received grants from foreign anti-tobacco groups The Union and Bloomberg Initiative during a public consultation on the draft guidelines for heated tobacco products.

Joaquin Gallardo, the spokesman of Vaper AKO, said the foreign lobby was a “serious breach of foreign interest.”

The Bloomberg foundations have different channels in the Philippines that promote prohibitionist policies that put Filipino smokers at a disadvantage who want to try less harmful smoke-free alternatives or non-combustible nicotine products,” Gallardo said. “No wonder the FDA issued an initial draft that looks like it wanted to ban e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products [HTPs] altogether.”

Gallardo said recipients of funds from Bloomberg and other foreign groups should explain how they use the money to remove suspicion. He said FDA’s acceptance of foreign grants breached national interest.

PECIA president Joey Dulay asked Congress to pass a law in the mold of India’s Foreign Contribution Regulation Act which aims to regulate the acceptance of foreign contributions and to prohibit foreign contributions for any activities detrimental to the national interest.

“A law that regulates foreign contribution will stop the flow of questionable foreign grants, particularly those that are dangled to government agencies and NGOs to influence national policies and regulations,” Dulay said.

In December 2020, Deputy House Speaker Deogracias Victor Savellano of Ilocos Sur’s first district and Rep. Estrellita Suansing of Nueva Ecija’s first district filed a resolution to direct the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability to conduct an inquiry on the alleged “questionable” receipt of private funding by the FDA in exchange for the issuance of policies against a legitimate industry under Philippine laws.

Source: Manila Times