Two leaders of the House of Representatives have filed a resolution urging the Philippines Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to stop accepting money and return all the funds they received from foreign private groups such as The Union and Bloomberg Initiative.
Deputy House Speaker Deogracias Victor Savellano, representing Ilocos Sur’s First District and Nueva Ecija First District Rep. Estrellita Suansing, filed the resolution directing the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation on the alleged “questionable” receipt of private funding by the FDA and other government agencies and institutions in exchange for the issuance of specific and predefined policies against a legitimate industry under Philippine laws and in complete disregard of the rights and welfare of consumers.
The inquiry stemmed from the admission by FDA officials, during a public hearing on October 28 for the drafting of the general guidelines on the regulation of electronic nicotine delivery systems (e-cigarettes) and heated tobacco products, that they received funding from The Union and Bloomberg Initiative which are international private groups that advocate against all forms of tobacco products, including ENDS and HTPs.
Meanwhile, the Senate also asked the FDA to follow the enabling laws in drafting the guidelines for the regulation of ENDS and HTPs. In the recent Senate deliberations on the budget of the Department of Health (DOH), Senate President Vicente Sotto III expressed concern that the FDA was going beyond the enabling law in preparing the implementing rules and regulations for HTPs and vapes.
“It has been a big issue with us. Because some agencies appear to go beyond their enabling law, what the enabling law provides,” Senator Sotto said.
FDA, an attached agency of the DOH, was tasked to draft the general guidelines for the implementation of Republic Act No. 11467 and Executive Order No. 106 which allow the sale, distribution and taxation of HTPs and electronic cigarettes or vapes.
Senator Sotto asked Senator Pia Cayetano, the sponsor of the 2021 budget of the DOH and its attached agencies, to guarantee that the draft guidelines would remain faithful to the enabling law.
“Yes Mr. [Senate] President, the director general [of FDA] is nodding his head with thumbs up. I will remind them that we are very conscious of their not exceeding their authority. They should just be guided by the law,” Senator Cayetano responded, referring to FDA Director-General Dr. Eric Domingo who attended the budget hearing.
The FDA held virtual public consultations on proposed guidelines for the regulation of vapor products on October 6 and on HTPs on October 8. While the FDA initially denied receiving foreign funds, Nueva Ecija Rep. Estrellita Suansing cited the grant given by Bloomberg as support to “the implementation of the National Tobacco Control Program (NTCP) under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA).”
Consumer group Vapers PH said the foreign grants had contaminated the framing of the guidelines for the regulation of e-cigarettes and HTPs.
Deputy House Speaker Savellano then moved to initiate a full-blown House of Representatives investigation on the FDA.