Health groups ask Recto: Now how do we manage lung cancer epidemic?
The online news portal of TV5
Health advocates on Sunday said Sen. Ralph Recto should explain how he proposes to manage a predicted cancer epidemic as a result of his "watered-down" proposal on the Sin Tax bill.
The Department of Health earlier warned that the Philippines is in danger of developing a lung cancer epidemic over the next decade unless smoking is curbed in the country.
"Sen. Recto should now explain just how he thinks the Philippines will manage a lung cancer epidemic since he clearly took the side of the industry that is selling a death product," said Dr. Maricar Limpin, executive director of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines (FCAP). "Every cigarette stick contains 70 known carcinogens that affect the smoker and the ones who inhale second hand smoke. He knew that the state is losing P188 billion a year from just the top four causes of deaths among our people. He was overwhelmed with presentations about how smoking is causing diseases and premature deaths and how it is affecting our economy and our people’s survival. What turned out in his report only showed where his loyalty lies."
Limpin said since half of all Filipino men are currently smoking, the Philippines can be expected to see a surge in lung cancer cases and smoking-related early deaths over the next ten years. There are an estimated 17.3 million adult smokers in the Philippines, the highest smoking prevalence in Southeast Asia.
The Philippines also has the highest number of smoking youth in the Asia Pacific Region with 28.3% boys and 17.5% girls aged 13-15 consuming cigarettes.
Aside from cancer, the three other major causes of deaths in the Philippines are heart attack, stroke, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - also due to tobacco consumption.
Lung cancer is the leading form of cancer in the country with most patients coming from the National Capital Region and in tobacco-producing provinces in the Ilocos Region. Other top cancer killers among Filipinos are those of the breast, cervix, liver, colon and rectum, prostate, stomach, oral cavity, ovary and leukemia. The survival rate of cancer cases in the country is also low. Lung cancer is more prevalent among poorer families. When cancer hits a poor family, their economic resources are drained leading to greater poverty.
New Vois Association of the Philippines Inc. an organization of laryngeal cancer survivors, said Recto not only turned a deaf ear to the voice of health experts and cancer victims during the hearings but his watered-down version smacks of allegiance with the tobacco industry.
"He needs to explain to the Filipino why it is more important to protect the multinational tobacco industry than to save children and the youth from getting cancer. Sen. Recto seems to be driven by the desire to protect the tobacco industry in Batangas. I believe we, cancer victims and survivors have to remind him he should be aware of his accountability to the whole country as a senator," said Emer Rojas, NVAP president and a laryngeal cancer survivor.
Philip Morris’ $300 million tobacco plant, its biggest and most expensive in the Asia Pacific Region, is in Batangas, Recto’s turf.
Rojas warned that the sin tax, which is an anti-cancer tax, will fail to meet its objective of curbing smoking and discouraging children from taking up this deadly habit as cigarette prices would remain cheap under Recto’s version.
The DOH, the Department of Finance, and health advocates are pushing for the version of Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago that targets P60 billion in sin tax.
“Recto’s version will have little if no effect at all in reducing our smoking population. With only an additional P2 increase in the prices of cigarette packs, it will not deter children from smoking,” said Rojas.