Social Watch Philippines (SWP), an organization advocating for people-centered health policies for the realization of the United Nations 2030 Agenda, and its partner grassroots-based organization, Aktibong Kilusan Tungo sa Iisang Bayan (AKTIB), hailed the local government units for conducting activities in line with the World No Tobacco Day 2023 celebration.

“We commend our local public servants for raising public awareness about alternative crop production for tobacco farmers amidst various crises. Mainstreaming other available livelihood options for the farmers should always be a part of a broader agenda. Being the closest authority on the ground, the LGUs serve a critical role in discussing the adverse effects of tobacco production on the economy, environment, farmers’ health, and food security,” said AKTIB Philippines National Coordinator Sara Salvador.

Meanwhile, SWP Co-convenor Dr. Ma. Victoria Raquiza appealed to the government agencies, particularly those with a strong influence in rural areas, to develop suitable strategies for this transformative plan.

“Promoting different livelihoods is a complex socio-economic issue. We must consider multiple factors to manage the concern appropriately. Hence, the need to devise and strictly implement comprehensive, multisectoral, sustainable, and coherent agricultural systems aligned with strengthening our food security,” said Raquiza.

Raquiza reiterated that various local and international laws back this call. Citing the Sin Tax Reform Law and the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), she said that the government must be committed to providing livelihood and funding for tobacco workers, growers, and, as the case may be, individual sellers.

Section 14 of the Republic Act 11346 suggests that an annual amount equivalent to five percent (5%) of the revenue collection from the excise tax on tobacco products but not exceeding four billion pesos (₱4,000,000,000.00) shall be allocated and divided among the provinces producing burley and native tobacco in accordance with the volume of tobacco leaf production. The fund can also be allocated to infrastructure projects such as farm-to-market roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, rural health facilities, and irrigation systems.

“By implementing these laws and regulations, we can address multiple SDGs, including SDG 1 (reduce poverty), 3 (health and well-being), 5 (gender equality), 8 (decent work and employment), 12 (responsible consumption and production), and 15 (life on land),” Raquiza added.

Both SWP and AKTIB led World No Tobacco Day 2023-related activities in various barangays in Metro Manila. They also joined the city-level initiatives of Manila, Pasay, Pasig, and the municipality of Pateros.