Former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Friday appealed to Congress to “set your priorities straight” and focus on health and livelihood in its remaining days in session.
“When we say what is our priority, allow me to say, what should not be our priority? Anything addictive – alcohol, cigarettes, gambling – hindi ba pwedeng hindi priority during the pandemic (shouldn’t those be the least of our priorities during the pandemic)?” Cayetano said during a media interview on January 14, 2022.
He said Congress should not focus on the granting of e-sabong franchises and the de-facto legalization and widening of availability of e-cigarettes in the country.
“I appeal to my fellow lawmakers, set your priorities straight. Unless taxes ‘yan, e hindi naman po automatic na nagre-result sa taxes ang regulation e, or y’ung franchise na binibigay,” he added, referring to legislative franchises granted by Congress to at least one online cockfighting operator and currently being considered for another operator.
(I appeal to my fellow lawmakers, set your priorities straight. Unless we’re talking about taxes, but we have to keep in mind, regulation does not automatically result in taxes, neither do those franchises you keep granting.)
Instead of regulating habit-forming activities and substances, Cayetano said lawmakers should double down on policies that protect the health and livelihood of Filipinos, especially amid a fragile recovery from the worst effects of the now-two-year-old pandemic.
“Dalawa lang naman dapat ang maging priority all throughout e — buhay at kabuhayan. If we focus on health and livelihood, awa ng Diyos, people will see na may lifeline ang gobyerno sa mga problemang hinaharap nila sa ngayon,” the lawmaker said.
(We should be prioritizing only these two things all throughout – lives and livelihoods. If we focus on health and livelihood, by God’s grace, people will see that the government is able to extend a lifeline to them amid the challenges they face right now.)
Cayetano, who is running for a Senate seat in the May 2022 elections on a faith-based and values-oriented policy agenda, has repeatedly voiced his opposition to granting legislative franchises to e-sabong operations in the country, as well as to making vape products and e-cigarettes widely available to the public.
In May 2021, the Lower House approved a bill seeking to regulate the sale of e-cigarettes in the country, but lowers the minimum age restriction to 18 from 21, and relegates the Food and Drug Administration to being a consulting body to the Department of Trade and Industry in regulating the said product class.
“Tayo lang sa buong mundo ang sa DTI, hindi sa FDA nilagay ang regulation ng e-cigarettes,” Cayetano said.
(Of all the countries in the world, we are the only one that has shifted regulation of e-cigarettes from its food and drug agency to its trade department.)
“Kaya natatawa ako kasi nagagalit yung FDA sa mga COVID test na hindi nila approved pero binebenta. Pero ang gusto naman ng Kongreso, payagan yung e-cigarettes na iba’t ibang flavor na dineny na ng ibang mga bansa na DTI ang gumawa,” the lawmaker added.
(That’s why I find it laughable that the FDA is angry at people selling COVID tests it hasn’t approved for sale, but we get Congress approving the sale of e-cigarettes with different flavors that other countries have banned but which the DTI has pushed for.)