Senator Pia Cayetano on Thursday, June 23 expressed hope that President Duterte will veto Senate Bill No. 2239 or the proposed Vaporized Nicotine Products Regulation Act, which is also known as the VAPE bill, agreeing with doctors that it would put the health of thousands of Filipinos at risk if it is signed into law.
Cayetano, in a press conference at the Senate, also lauded the “landmark decision” of the Supreme Court (SC) giving the power and authority to regulate cigarettes to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Cayetano, who chairs the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, noted that the bill’s final version has been ratified by Congress since January, but until now is “sitting on a table in the House of Representatives.”
“The decision is clear that the FDA must regulate all products that affect health. It makes it simpler if the President vetoes the bill. But from what I know the bill has not yet reached Malacanang,” Cayetano told reporters during the meeting.
“Allow the current president to do what he needs to do with it and, of course, our prayer is that it would be vetoed,” she said.
Cayetano was among the two senators who voted against the VAPE bill in the Senate. She said she was “beyond disappointed and saddened” when it passed the Senate on third and final reading with a provision that products covered by the bill would not have the “regulatory stamp” of the FDA.
Dr. Maricar Limpin, Executive Director of Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance-Philippines (FCAP) and President of the Philippine College of Physicians, said they are glad that the SC upheld the mandate of the FDA as the agency that is tasked to protect the health of Filipinos.
In the event that the bill is signed into law, Limpin said they will question the constitutionality of the measure and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) of acting as the regulatory body on a health product which is clearly under the jurisdiction of the FDA.
Under the final version of the VAPE bill, manufacturers, distributors, importers and sellers are given 18 months transitory period from the issuance of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) to register their products with DTI, aside from other requirements.
The bill also mandates the Department of Health (DOH) to come up with smoking and vaping restriction awareness campaigns, and tasks the DTI to consult with FDA on setting technical safety, consistency and quality standards of the products.
Cayetano said she also hopes that incoming President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. would also veto the VAPE bill if the measure is submitted to him after Duterte’s term.
The lawmaker and other health advocates also called for the immediate and full implementation of the FDA Law of 2009 and its IRR and the Sin Tax Law of 2020.