PMI violates Philippines’ Government Circular, AmCham provides shield

26 August 2016

Philip Morris Philippines (PMFTC) and AmCham (American Chamber of Commerce) held a summit on climate change and its effects on agriculture in Palo, Leyte, Philippines, on 23 Aug. According to news reports some 234 participants including local government representatives, officials from the provincial and municipal agriculture offices, and town and city mayors attended the summit.

This summit violates the Philippines government Circular (CSC-DOH Joint Memorandum Circular – JMC) that protects the bureaucracy from interference from the tobacco industry. It is no surprise that PMFTC has found a crafty way to collaborate with civil servants to undermine the JMC. But how did the Department of Agriculture agree to collaborating with PMFTC by lecturing at this summit?  According to the JMC the only time government officials deal with the tobacco industry is to regulate, supervise or control it.

This is not a one-off activity and cannot be dismissed as there is a plan of action from the summit which PMFTC hopes will ‘support the government in making the agriculture sector sustainable.’ Another similar industry summit is being planned for end of the year to be held in Samar.

AmCham has already been exposed as a champion for the tobacco industry. It provides the tobacco industry a platform and facilitates easy access to governments. In the Philippines, although tobacco industry related CSR activities are banned for sport, concert, cultural or art events, PMI is still able to conduct its CSR activities through AmCham. This recent Palo summit is yet another example.

It is ludicrous for PMI to be discussing climate change because tobacco companies are noted big polluters.

According to California based Cigarette Butt Pollution Project, about 5.6 trillion cigarette are sold globally every year and these butts destroy the environment. Butt waste is non-biodegradable, toxic, ignites deadly fires, poisons wildlife and children, and the clean-up is expensive.

About 82 billion butts are dumped into the environment in the Philippines every year. The bulk of these sticks belong to PMFTC since they control over 80% of the cigarette market. Perhaps the Philippines Department of Environment and Natura Resources should be issuing a fine to PMFTC and other tobacco companies for the pollution caused by butt waste.

It is also disappointing that the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) participated and presented at the tobacco event when it is committed to abiding by the WHO FCTC Article 5.3 as an UN agency.

Is PMI organizing similar summit or meeting on sustainable agriculture in your country? Let us know if it is.