A victory for tobacco, a defeat for our children | Inquirer Opinion
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A victory for tobacco, a defeat for our children

I don’t understand. Here we are, the Filipino people, being asked by our President to show more gratitude or appreciation to China for donating COVID-19 vaccines to us, and being the source of most of the vaccines we are now using. Parang wala tayong utang na loob. Which for us, Filipinos, is one of the greatest sins.

I disagree with that point of view. And here’s my take. Wasn’t China the source of the virus in the first place? Not only that, didn’t China try to cover up its virus situation in the second place?

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It viciously muffled any of its citizens’ attemptsʍscientists or mediaʍto warn the world, or at least to put out a different narrative. And to keep up appearances of normality, it allowed its citizens and Wuhan visitors to travel where they wanted, spreading the virus with impunity.

Not only that, it has been very stingy with its scientific data (which leads many to think that it is hiding something). Plus it then engaged in a campaign to shift the blame for COVID-19 to other countries (“the virus came from imported products”).

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So on the whole, don’t you think, Reader, that it is fair to say that China behaved irresponsibly, as a member of the international community, as much as it behaved irresponsibly toward its citizens?

Which all means that China owes us and the whole world, not the other way around. We don’t owe it an iota of utang na loob. What it calls “vaccine diplomacy” should be called “vaccine reparations,” for the damage that the virus that originated from itʍand spread so widely and so fast because of its gross irresponsibilityʍhas caused.

This is not the first time China has tried to pull the wool over our eyes, or insisted that its narrative is correct. But the Philippines stopped it shortʍor so we thoughtʍwhen we went to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague and got a ruling that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources in the sea areas falling within its so-called “nine-dash line” (that line would have grabbed from us 80 percent of our exclusive economic zone and 100 percent of our extended continental shelf).

That outstanding victory, by the way, is worth at least anywhere from $3.5 to $10.6 trillion. But our President Duterte has called it worth only the paper it is written on. Anyway, it is obvious to me there is no way that China can be called our “friend,” or anyone’s, for that matter.

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There is another issue I have to discuss with you, Reader, which is why I am shortening my discussion on China. This has to do, unfortunately, with another perfidy. This time perpetrated on our children. Our House of Representatives approved on final reading four days ago House Bill No. 9007, which is a bill dearly beloved by our tobacco industry. And that is why, I tend to think, that bill passed with such breathtaking speed between first and final reading.

Maybe a 10-day period, or less.

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HB 9007 is the electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) bill. The vote was 192-34, which to me is a consolation (and at the same time an indictment of the House) because there were at least 34 congressmen who voted against it. The numbers opposing are usually smaller than that.

But let me tell you who were against the bill, and were ruthlessly disregarded by our cash-mad Congress: the Department of Health, the World Health Organization, the Food and Drugs Administration, the Philippine Pediatrics Society, the Child Rights Network. Why?

Because the bill overturns some of the hard-fought reforms that protected minors from the deadly results of tobaccoʍe-cigs and vaping are just new ways to get tobacco into them. The most egregious is the lowering of the minimum age for access to e-cigarettes to 18, and allowing the products to be sold and advertised online.

Evidence had been presented to the legislators showing the harmful, deadly effects of e-cigs. But this was all ignored. A victory for tobacco. A deadly defeat for our children.

So now, it is up to the Senate. Do you think they will be able to overcome the financial temptation? Please, God.

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TAGS: children, China, COVID-19, e-cigarette, House Bill No. 9007, tobacco, utang na loob, virus origin
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