29 February 2016
Philippines: Article 17 of the WHO FCTC requires tobacco growers to shift to alternate livelihoods.
Overall tobacco cultivation in the Philippines is insignificant, both in providing employment and as an agricultural activity. The 55,750 tobacco growers make up only 0.16% of total employment and they are not full-time tobacco growers. The 38,450 hectares planted with tobacco occupy only a minute 0.19% of total agricultural land.
However Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corporation’ (PMFTC) pumps up tobacco growing to be bigger than it really is. Almost on a daily basis tobacco growing is given prominent coverage in the media. The coverage includes feature stories, advertorials and photo stories.
The almost 1-photo-a-day stories cover the whole range of activities in tobacco growing usually featuring one farmer – getting ready to plant tobacco, preparing seedlings for planting, preparing to water tobacco plants, harvesting, curing and drying leaves, sorting dried leaves, loading tobacco leaves onto a tractor – mostly in the Ilocos region in Northern Philippines.
Although tobacco advertisements are banned in newspapers, PMFTC advertises its CSR activities through paid half-page advertorials that highlight its seminars for tobacco farmers, tree-planting activities and how the industry improve tobacco leaves’ quality.
However government efforts in assisting growers to shift to alternate crops or livelihood are lost or not adequately reported. Worse, regular media coverage on tobacco farming overplays its importance and undermines government programmes in helping farmers shift.
It appears PMFTC gets its stock of feature stories and photos through its annual competition, Bright Leaf Awards for Agriculture Journalism. The prize for last year’s competition was a four-day paid holiday to Hanoi, Vietnam. One of the winning articles, “Potential of Tobacco Industry in Central Luzon” gives an idea of the type of promotion accorded to tobacco growing.
PMFTC continues to ignore Article 17 and the advertisement for this year’s 10th Bright Leaf Agriculture Journalism Awards’ has already gone out through an advertorial for the tobacco story and tobacco photo of the year. The Department of Agriculture needs to step up publicity on how it is implementing Article 17 on alternate livelihood for tobacco growers.
For information on TI denormalization, check out SEATCA’s Tobacco Industry Watch website.
Previous ASEAN Tobacco Watch updates can be found here.