DOH, health advocates push for higher tax on cigarettes

Marje Pelayo   •   October 12, 2018   •   4022

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) and several health advocates are calling on the  immediate passage of a measure that would increase the taxes on cigarettes.

No less than Health Secretary Francisco Duque III led a forum on Friday (October 12) to campaign and push the Senate Committee on Ways and Means chaired by Senator Sonny Angara to increase the amount of excise tax on cigarette items.

Duque emphasized that the proposal would help minimize the number of smokers and patients who fall ill and die because of smoking cigarettes.

“The ultimate goal of the DOH is understanding that the Sin Tax law must proceed with the angle of health and

The group urges Senate to consider a P60.00 or P90.00 in tax to each pack of cigarettes.

Based on a prior study on the impact of the measure, around one to two million smokers would be encouraged to quit once the proposal becomes a law.

“Kapag tumaas kasi ang presyo siempre magkakaroon iyan ng impact sa demand, sa consumption at magkakaroon din iyan ng impact sa number of smokers,” Duque said.

The Health Secretary already forwarded a letter to President Rodrigo Duterte requesting him to certify as urgent the proposed increase in excise tax on cigarettes.

Aside from health reasons, the DOH believes that the additional tax on cigarettes will help support the implementation of the Universal Healthcare Bill once it is enacted into law. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Joan Nano.)

Philippines eyes 30,000 daily COVID-19 tests by end of May

Robie de Guzman   •   May 12, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) is eyeing to achieve 30,000 daily tests for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) by the end of the month as it works to ramp up the country’s testing capacity.

The DOH set the target after it finally attained its first target to conduct 8,000 COVID-19 tests in a day.

On Sunday, May 10, the agency reported it has conducted 8,637 tests in one day. This is, however, 10 days past its target date of April 30.

According to Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, the tests were done on 158,176 unique individuals.

She explained that one of the causes of the delay was the slow processing of samples after the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) had to scale down its operations in April when over 40 of its medical staff contracted COVID-19.

The RITM has since returned to normal operations after most of its personnel recovered from the disease.

So far, the Philippines has 26 accredited laboratories capable of detecting the strain of coronavirus strain that causes COVID-19.

Vergeire said they are eyeing to open additional testing facilities to reach its target of 30,000 daily tests.

This way, the country will be able to improve efforts on contact tracing, isolation and treatment of COVID-19 patients to effectively curb the spread of the disease.

“Hindi pa po tapos ang laban ng World War C (COVID-19) sa bawa’t bagong impormasyon bawa’t bagong teknolohiyang nadidiskubre upang malabanan ang COVID-19 tayo’y dapat maging manatiling alerto dahil ang bawa’t bagay na nagagawa natin ay mayron buhay na mailigtas,” Vergeire said.

To date, the Philippines has recorded 11,086 confirmed coronavirus infections, with 726 deaths and 1,999 recovered patients. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

Duque vows to continue to serve; will answer senators’ call for resignation ‘in due time’

Marje Pelayo   •   April 16, 2020

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III

Manila, Philippines – In a surprise move, 15 senators filed a resolution on Thursday (April 16) seeking the resignation of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III while the country is in the midst of a battle against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

But Duque opted to defer his answer on the issue.

Instead, in a statement, he said he would respond to the senators’ call for his resignation in “due time.”

“We will answer these allegations in due time, but right now, we will continue to be in the trenches with our health care workers and frontliners,” he said.

“I will continue to serve the country to the best of my abilities,” he added.

At least 15 senators signed Senate Resolution no. 362 calling Duque to resign due to ‘failure of leadership’ in addressing the COVID-19 outbreak.

The legislators also accused him of negligence, lack of competence, efficiency, and foresight bordering on negligence in handling the health crisis.

The senators in a timeline cited the Health Chief’s delay in recommending a travel ban to and from China as manifested in his statement during the January 29 question hour in Congress.

“Certainly, that’s one of the possible options that we are looking at, but not at this very moment. The reason being, your honor, is we have to be very careful also of possible repercussions of doing this, in light of the fact that confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus are not limited to China,” Duque’s statement on January 29.

On February 24, Duque blamed airline companies for delaying the contact tracing of passengers who were on board with the two Chinese nationals who were the first two cases of COVID-19 in the country.

“Baka pwede natin itong pagkaisahan ho ito. The airlines are not sharing contact details of the passengers. They are invoking confidentiality,” he said on that hearing.

The legislators also pointed out that Duque had constantly announced that the country was COVID-19 free despite reports from several hospitals of patients already showing symptoms of COVID-19.

They cited the incident between Duque and Cardinal Santos Medical Center when the hospital admitted into their hospital the first local case of COVID-19.

“Ang Cardinal Santos tumawag iyan. They made a request na kung puwede huwag babanggitin ‘yung Cardinal Santos Medical Center only to find out later na sila pala mismo ang nagbanggit ng sarili nila. So you know this is not fair,” he said during a hearing on March 7.

Furthermore, the senators noted the Health Chief’s alleged failure to forewarn the public on the rapid increase in the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 recorded between March 8 to 10.

Also, they accused Duque of failing to resolve the country’s shortage of personal protective equipment (PPEs) for health care workers specifically citing the incident at the National Center for Mental Health which resulted in 34 staff confirmed with COVID-19, almost 300 patients under investigation, more than a hundred persons under monitoring; and issuance of the gag order against Dr. Clarita Avila who divulged the incident to the public.

In addition to these allegations, the senators claimed Duque’s inaction to stockpile polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing kits for public use; for limiting volunteer doctors and nurses’ daily allowance to only P500/day; and delaying the accreditation of testing facilities such as the delayed inspection of the Marikina City COVID-19 Testing Center.

Secretary Duque, who was at the Defeat COVID-19 Technical Working Group on Health Conference at the House of Representatives this afternoon, refused to grant media interviews.

But as he said in his earlier posted statement, the Health Chief emphasized at this time, the country is ‘at war with an invisible enemy which to this day remains unpredictable.’

“This is not a fight of one man or of one agency. It is a fight for all of us Filipinos,” he said.

“Let us work as a team, as one country fighting for the health and safety of all,” Secretary Duque concluded. MNP (with inputs from Harlene Delgado)

Senators who signed Senate Resolution 362:

  • Senate President Vicente Sotto III
  • Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto
  • Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri
  • Senator Sonny Angara
  • Senator Nancy Binay
  • Senator Grace Poe
  • Senator Manny Pacquiao
  • Senator Sherwin Gatchalian
  • Senator Francis Tolentino
  • Senator Joel Villanueva
  • Senator Ronald Dela Rosa
  • Senator Imee Marcos
  • Senator Lito Lapid
  • Senator Ramon Revilla
  • Senator Panfilo Lacson

DOH agrees with FDA decision to ban Dengvaxia in Phl

Maris Federez   •   August 22, 2019

A Filipino nurse prepares to administer an anti-dengue vaccine during a nationwide vaccination at a school in the flood-prone city of Marikina, east of Manila, Philippines, 04 April 2016. (Photoville International / FILE)

The Department of Health (DOH) has rejected the request of Sanofi Pasteur to overturn the decision of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban the use of Dengvaxia vaccine in the Philippines.

With this, the DOH approved the ruling of the FDA to permanently revoke the certificate of product registration of Dengvaxia for Sanofi’s failure to submit the necessary post-approval requirements.

“The decision concerns Sanofi’s complete disregard of FDA regulations, which were precisely put in place by law to ensure safety,” DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III said in a statement.

Although Sanofi was able to submit the first two versions of its risk management plans (RMP), the pharmaceutical company failed to submit the third and final version of the plan.

The DOH said, however, that Sanofi may apply for a new certificate of product registration (CPR) for Dengvaxia but this must be in accordance with the FDA regulations.

“Given that Dengvaxia is an innovative drug, the importance of complying with these post-marketing commitments is critical to public safety,” the statement added.

Meanwhile, the department has assured that it continues to address the increasing cases of dengue in the country. /mbmf

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