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After setback in SC ruling, DOH wants to revisit interagency panel on tobacco regulation

MANILA – Health Secretary Janette Garin signalled at the weekend she will push to revisit the composition of the Inter-agency Committee on Tobacco (IACT), after a Supreme Court ruling thwarted her agency’s effort to regulate tobacco promotion.

The focus of the review she wants: the inclusion of the tobacco industry in the IACT, which she deems a “loophole” in Republic Act 9211 or the Tobacco Regulation Act .

“That’s basically to look at the whole composition. Because that is in the law, and it’s a loophole (of the law),” Garin remarked, by way of commenting on a ruling last week, where the SC granted an appeal against DOH by Philip Morris Philippines Manufacturing Inc. and Fortune Tobacco Corp.

The high court affirmed a 2011 Court of Appeals decision favoring Fortune and Philip Morris in their move to contest a DOH resolution on tobacco sales promotion. The IACT, not the DOH, has the authority to implement the law, the SC ruled last week.

Garin explained that the DOH resolution on tobacco sales promotion was issued because IACT “has been inactive for so long.”

She conceded that if one were to strictly follow the law, “it’s the interagency committee [IACT] that has the prerogative [to regulate].” But, she explained, “the DOH did this because for a long time the IACT was not being activated.”

In light of the SC ruling last week, the DOH now plans to coordinate with the Department of Trade and Industry in order to activate the IACT.

Through the DTI, the DOH will also try to forge a compromise with the tobacco industry, hoping to win their cooperation to regulate tobacco consumption, she said.

The DOH has not yet decided on whether or not to file a motion for reconsideration with the SC, and is still consulting its legal department.

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