Country in a ‘win-win-win’ situation with increased cigarette tax—WHO

Aileen Cerrudo   •   June 4, 2019   •   3388

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that raising taxes on cigarette will be a “win-win-win” situation and can save around 460,000 lives.

According to WHO representative to the Philippines, Gundo Weiler, on Monday (June 3) excise taxes on cigarette is a win for the economy.

“We know that individually, especially for the poorest segment of the society, increasing [the price of] tobacco will actually help them save money. They spend less on cigarettes. They will spend less on unnecessary health care,” he said.

Weiler adds that the collected tax can be used to fund the government’s Universal Health Care (UHC).

Plastic particles in drinking water present ‘low’ risk – WHO

Robie de Guzman   •   August 23, 2019

Microplastics contained in drinking water pose a “low” risk to human health at current levels, but more research is needed to reassure consumers, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday (August 22).

Studies over the past year on plastic particles detected in tap and bottled water have sparked public concerns, but the limited data appears reassuring the U.N. agency said in its first report on potential health risks associated with ingestion.

Microplastics enter drinking water sources mainly through run-off and wastewater effluent, the WHO said. Evidence shows that microplastics found in some bottled water seem to be at least partly due to the bottling process and/or packaging such as plastic caps, it said.

It added however that the current and available studies on the toxicity of plastic parts are limited, and also have not used standardized methods enabling scientists to have reproducible and comparable metrics, and that more studies are needed to be more conclusive on certain of the issues.

Microplastics pose three threats, a physical one, a chemical and the third is about bacterial colonization.

The majority of plastic particles in water are larger than 150 micrometers in diameter and are excreted from the body, while the vast majority of smaller ones are likely to be excreted too, there still remains concern. WHO technical experts reported that more research needs to be conducted to know more about what is being absorbed, the distribution and their impacts.

The chemical hazard, experts have looked at the concentrations found in marine microplastics and chose a worst-case scenario saying we would ingest the highest possible concentrations. According to WHO, whatever the chemical, the exposure level was a lot safer than any threshold of risks.

Bacterial colonization, health experts say there are so many particles in the environment bacteria might adhere to, that microplastics would make a negligible contribution to any microbioflora that would be released and pose a risk.

For this report, however, despite the flaws, they say they worked with worst-case scenarios and are confident that the risk would remain low should some data change.

The WHO recommended for consumers to keep on consuming tap or bottled water, provided it is correctly treated, and didn’t recommend for any regulations to be put in place. It also called for more studies, investigating the potential cumulative effects of the ingestion of microplastics present in food, air, water.

The biggest overall health threat in water is from microbial pathogens —including from human and livestock waste entering water sources — that cause deadly diarrhoeal disease, especially in poor countries lacking water treatment systems, the WHO said.

Some 2 billion people drink water contaminated with faeces, causing nearly 1 million deaths annually, Gordon said, adding: “That has got to be the focus of regulators around the world.”

Plastic pollution is so widespread in the environment that you may be ingesting five grams a week, the equivalent of eating a credit card, a study commissioned by the environmental charity WWF International said in June.

That study said the largest source of plastic ingestion was drinking water, but another major source was shellfish. (Reuters)

(Production: Marina Depretis, Emilie Delwarde)

House OKs tax hike on alcohol, vape products on third reading

Aileen Cerrudo   •   August 21, 2019

The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading the bill which seeks to increase taxes on alcohol and vape products.

Based on House Bill No. 1026 “distilled spirits shall have an excise tax of 22% of the retail price, as well as an additional specific tax of P35 per proof liter in 2020, P40 in 2021 and P45 in 2022. The specific tax shall be increased by seven percent every year afterwards.”

The Committee on Ways and Means chairman Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda assures the excise tax on tobacco products, as stated in the bill, is only for vape products.

“So if you are so afraid of the tobacco taxes, there are no new tobacco taxes (in the bill) except for vape which is not a tobacco product. It is essentially a vape, non-combustion,” he said.

Salcedo added that vape products will have an increase of P30 in excise tax from the current P10.

The bill states that selling heated tobacco products and vapor products at prices lower than the combined excise and value-added tax rates required by the law shall be prohibited.

There will also be a Joint Congressional Oversight Committee which will be referred to as the Oversight Committee on Illicit Trade on Excisable Products.

The said committee will (a) evaluate the programs and performance of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in addressing illicit trade on excisable products and recommend remedial legislation; (b) require concerned agencies to submit reports and data that can aid in resolving illicit trade of excisable products; (c) hold public hearings; and (d) deputize the BIR, the BOC, the Philippine National Police, the National Bureau of Investigation and other enforcement government agencies as may be needed, among others.

Meanwhile, DOF Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua told reporters last Thursday (Aug 15) that they are not satisfied with the House version of the bill.

“We are not satisfied with the House version, but it’s a starting point. We hope to convince senators to go for higher rates for the universal health care program,” he said.—AAC

Filipinos in Macau advised to observe strict measures vs. Ebola virus

Marje Pelayo   •   August 9, 2019

Congolese officials and the World Health Organization officials wear protective suits as they participate in a training against the Ebola virus near the town of Beni in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, August 11, 2018. REUTERS/Samuel Mambo

MANILA, Philippines – Filipinos living and working in Macau as well as those who wish to travel to the south China autonomous region are advised to observe intensified measures by Macau Health authorities against cross-border spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

In a public advisory on Friday (August 9), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) citing the Philippine Consulate General in Macau SAR, announced that the Macau Health Services will be implementing strengthened response measures at its borders and ports for the early patient detection and prevention against the virus.

The DFA said the advisory was in response to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) announcement of a “public health emergency of international interest” for Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

With the strengthened response measures in place, all passport holders from Ebola-stricken regions will subject for questioning and inspection by border crossing health workers.

Travelers from countries and regions affected by the outbreaks will be immediately referred to the Conde de São Januário Hospital Center to undergo evaluation and tests should they show suspicious symptoms of Ebola.

On the other hand, should travelers show no signs of symptoms, Health Services agents will follow the medical condition daily by phone call.

For further concerns, Filipinos in Macau are encouraged to call the Macau Health Services Communicable Disease Hotline at 28 700 800 or coordinate with the Philippines Consulate General’s Office at +853 6698-1900.

Inquiries may also be e-mailed to macau.pcg@dfa.gov.ph.

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