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After a contentious battle that raged for 11 years, the Philippines’ Supreme Court ruled in early June to uphold the authority of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Health (DOH) to regulate all products affecting health, including tobacco products. This important ruling reverses a 2011 petition filed by the Philippine Tobacco Institute—its members include Philip Morris Philippines Manufacturing, Inc., Fortune Tobacco Corp., La Suerte Cigar, and Cigarette Factory—to prevent tobacco products regulation by the FDA and DOH.

“This is a critically important, groundbreaking decision,” said Gan Quan, Director of Tobacco Control at The Union. “After more than a decade of fighting, it demonstrates that the Philippines prioritizes public health, and that the tobacco industry can be prevented from interfering in policy.”

In recognizing that the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) is part of the Philippine Law, the Supreme Court dealt a blow to the authority of the Philippine Republic Act 9211 and its Inter-Agency Committee on Tobacco (which includes members of the tobacco industry) to dictate how tobacco products are regulated. The Supreme Court’s ruling states that the Philippine Tobacco Institute’s desired interpretation to allow tobacco companies to be regulated by the IAC-T is contrary to law and the Philippines’ international obligations under the WHO FCTC.

The ruling comes at a critically important time. Tobacco control advocates have been fighting, since January, to thwart the pending Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Products Regulation Act, which seeks to remove the FDA’s jurisdiction over e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products and transfer authority to the industry-friendly Department of Trade and Industry. Tobacco control and public health advocates hope that this recent Supreme Court ruling will set a precedent, upending all future tobacco industry attempts to weaken health authorities’ autonomy over tobacco and nicotine products.