President Rodrigo Duterte will leave a number of legacies when he steps down from office on June 30 this year, despite what his critics say. His administration built a number of jaw-dropping infrastructure projects, secured an investment grade rating of BBB+ for the Philippines, adopted an independent foreign policy, steadied the economy during the pandemic and shored up the country’s gross international reserves to near $110 billion.
Mr. Duterrte, in his final six months at Malacañang Palace, now has the golden opportunity to sign several landmark laws that are expected to lift the economy from the impact of the pandemic and bolster further his legacies for the next generations.
After signing Republic Act No. 11595, which amended the Retail Trade Liberalization Act of 2000 into law on December 10, 2021, RA 11641 which created the Department of Migrant Workers on December 30, 2021, and RA 11596 which prohibited child marriage on January 6, 2022, the president is expected to sign other critical laws, including the Public Service Act, Foreign Investment Act and the Vaporized Nicotine Products bill.
Equally important and pending in the Senate is the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement that will boost economic growth and make the Philippines more competitive in the export market. Failure to get Senate’s approval will cause the Philippines to miss out on the opportunity to speed up the much-needed economic growth and recovery.
The Department of Trade, sensing that the Philippines may miss the boat, has urged the Senate to endorse the RCEP Agreement that will make the Philippines more competitive in the export market. The deal took effect on January 1, 2022.
The Public Service Act and Foreign Investment Act, meanwhile, are economic reforms that will attract more foreign capital to the Philippines and subsequently create jobs for millions of Filipinos. The VNP or the so-called vape bill, on the other hand, will dramatically reduce the smoking prevalence in the country by making available less harmful options to nearly 17 million Filipino smokers, according to consumer and medical organizations.
The vape bill deserves to finally become a law, having been tackled by Congress as early as 2013, to properly regulate vaporized nicotine products, which unlike cigarettes, do not involve combustion or burning.
Scientific studies have confirmed that it is the smoke from combustion, and not nicotine, that is largely responsible for the harm caused by smoking on the human body.
The bill, which aims to regulate the production, sale, use and promotion of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products (HTPs), was overwhelmingly approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate last year, as the measure puts in place strong provisions to address concerns over the possible misuse of these products by minors.
Such provisions prohibit the sale to and use of vaporized nicotine products by minors. The vape bill passed by the Senate also bans the use of flavor descriptors that unduly appeal to minors.
The House of Representatives approved its own version of the bill on third reading on May 25, 2021, while senators crossed party lines to pass Senate Bill No. 2239 on final reading on December 16, 2021.
Both versions recognize the role of tobacco harm reduction, or the use of less harmful alternatives, to help smokers stop smoking that kills 8 million people a year.
A study conducted by Dr. Rafael Castillo, former president of the Philippine Heart Association-Philippine College of Cardiology, and his colleagues concluded that HTPs contain less harmful chemicals than cigarettes.
Dr. Castillo, a top cardiologist and the only Filipino sitting as trustee at the International Society of Hypertension, said the vape bill, once signed into law, “will become part of the legacy of the Duterte administration.”
“It will be the country’s first comprehensive law that will regulate vapor products and provide strict rules on its use to protect minors. It also provides for detailed regulation so that the 17 million Filipino smokers can access these less harmful alternatives,” he says.
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