Commission in Human Rights Backs Graphic Warnings on Cigarette Packs


CHR backs graphic warnings on cigarette packs
By Kristine L. Alave

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has put to task tobacco companies for refusing to put graphic warnings on cigarette packs.

CHR Chair Loretta Rosales expressed on Monday her support for groups that have called for the implementation of the Department of Health's Administrative Order 2010-0013, compelling tobacco manufacturers to put pictures of the debilitating effects of smoking on their packs.

Rosales, who admitted to be a former chain smoker who kicked the habit in 1994, said the companies' refusal to follow the rules "was a rights violation."

"The companies who do not implement the AO should be charged," she said in a press briefing on Monday.

She noted that the health department has put the law in place to protect the lives and health of the public.

CHR Commissioner Cecilia Quisumbing said the companies who have been fighting the law were guilty of "impunity."

The CHR chief issued the call for companies to follow the law after a support group of laryngeal cancer survivors appealed to her to pressure tobacco firms after two companies managed to secure an injunction against the order.

"Every day, 250 Filipinos die of smoking-related illness. But tobacco companies have not just refused to comply with the AO, they've also filed cases left and right against the Department of Health," Emer Rojas, president of New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) said.

"I have laryngeal cancer, a form of cancer that is 99% caused by smoking. The lying must stop so others will not have to go through the suffering and pain that we, victims of cigarettes - and our families - went through," he added.

Recently, Fortune Tobacco, which is owned by tycoon Lucio Tan, and Mighty J, has asked the court to invalidate the AO. The court granted their requests, prompting the Department of Health to contest the injunction orders.

The NVAP noted that placing pictures of ailments caused by smoking would discourage people, especially minors, from taking up the habit. It noted that the AO was consistent with the health department's mandate to protect the public's health.



Lucio Tan firm assessed P352M in unpaid taxes
By Carla Gomez

BACOLOD CITY - The Asian Alcohol Corp. (AAC) has sought permission to demolish its P2.2-billion plant in Pulupandan town but Mayor Magdaleno Peña on Sunday said he would not allow the company to do so until the full settlement of its P352-million tax deficiency to the provincial government and the municipality.

Negros Occidental provincial assessor Merlita Caelian and provincial treasurer Nilda Generoso informed AAC general manager Henry Tan in a letter dated July 26 that his firm owed the Negros Occidental provincial government and the municipality of Pulupandan P352,747,326.75 in taxes.

AAC lawyer Roger Reyes on Sunday said the Lucio Tan owned-firm would not resume operations in Pulupandan and has applied for a demolition permit from the town government.

The firm, estimated to cost about P1 billion, has not been operating for more than a year, having shut down on June 2, 2009 amid demands from the Pulupandan town government for it to comply with the pollution control requirements.

The AAC was planning to invest an additional P500 million in Pulupandan before its shutdown, Reyes added.

The demolition will not take place unless the AAC pays their real property tax liability to the province and the municipality, Peña said.

"If I allow the demolition without their paying the tax, I would be guilty of graft and corrupt practices because, in effect, I would be depriving the province and the LGU of about P352 million in deficient real property tax," he said.

If ACC refused to pay, its plant in Pulupandan could be auctioned off by the government, the mayor said.

On Sunday, Peña furnished the Philippine Daily Inquirer a copy of the letter of Caelian and Generoso informing AAC of its tax deficiency of P352 million, inclusive of penalty, which was traced after conducting a comparative review of real property assessment and tax collection.

The review concluded that from 1997-2009, the cost of real properties, such as land, buildings, machinery, declared by AAC to the Bureau of Internal Revenue was higher by over P12.8 billion than the cost it declared with the local assessor, the two assessors noted in their review.

The estimated difference amounting to P12.8 billion was computed using the audited financial statements of AAC filed with the BIR compared to what was declared in the Local Assessor's Property Listing.

Due to the established difference, they said the deficiency in tax owed by the AAC amounted to P352 million, they said.

In the event of a successful collection, the province of Negros Occidental would get P148,153,877.00 or 42 percent of the P352 million while the municipality of Pulupandan's share would be 20 percent or P70,549,465.20 of the amount.

The barangay (village) where the alcohol plant has been located would get 13 percent or P45,857,152.00 while the local school board would receive P88,186,831.00, representing 25 percent of the tax, a statement from Peña’s office said.

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