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Solons want stricter policies on donations to stop foreign meddling

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To stop foreign organizations’ meddling in the crafting and implementation of government regulations, the House of Representatives recommended the issuance of a stricter policy prohibiting regulatory bodies and government agencies, including LGUs, from receiving monetary grants from foreign private organizations without proper registration and disclosure.

The House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability adopted the committee report on House Resolution 1396 that directed Congress to investigate the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) questionable acceptance of money from Bloomberg, and called on the Commission on Audit (COA) to conduct a full-blown audit on the money received by the FDA from the American anti-tobacco group the Bloomberg Initiative to fund the drafting of the Philippines’ regulations for vapes and heated tobacco products (HTPs).

The Committee also urged to compel the FDA and Department of Health (DOH) to disclose sources of funds and to disclose potential conflict of interest in cases external assistance is received. It recommended the review of the FDA Act on the receipt of grants and donations from local and international sources, as well as its IRR to reflect the realities that a grant may influence the grantee.


House Resolution 1396 sponsor Deputy Speaker Deogracias Victor Salvellano said he and Rep. Estrellita Suansing pushed for the investigation on the FDA “to determine whether our regulatory agencies are being influenced by any foreign vested interest groups; and to initiate actions within our capacity as lawmakers to institutionalize policies to protect our sovereignty by averting such foreign meddling in our local affairs.”

The House Inquiry stemmed from the FDA’s public consultations on the draft guidelines for the regulation of vapor products and heated tobacco products in October last year, where an FDA official initially denied the agency’s receipt of foreign private money to fund the development of regulations for vapes and HTPs. The agency eventually admitted to have solicited and received a grant from The Union, an anti-tobacco organization financed by the Bloomberg Initiative.

The approved committee report of the investigation recommended the review of the budgetary allocation to the FDA and similar agencies that are mandated to conduct research that shall be responsive to the country’s health needs and problems.

The Committee called for an investigation by COA to determine whether the funding received by the FDA and other government agencies from foreign private organizations were properly utilized and accounted for.

It also pushed for the issuance of a policy prohibiting regulatory bodies and government agencies, including LGUs, from receiving monetary grants from foreign private organizations without proper registration and disclosure in exchange for allowing these donors to operate and interfere in the formulation and implementation of government policies.

The Committee sought "to review and possibly amend Batas Pambansa 39, to better reflect the new conditions obtaining due to passage of time." For example, further clarification on the concept of “foreign agent”, “political” or “political activity” maybe required, in relation to the activities of philanthropic and influential organizations, such as Bloomberg.

The Committee asked the Civil Service Commission “to immediately resolve its ongoing review” of the Joint Memorandum Circular No. 2010-01 on the Protection of the Bureaucracy Against Tobacco Industry Interference. The JMC was cited as basis by the DOH to refuse acceptance the tobacco industry’s donation of the much-needed respirators intended to support the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rep. Savellano expressed his strong support to the Committee’s recommendation to further investigate foreign organizations “to once and for all determine the extent of their influence in our government systems.”

“As we have learned in the course of the inquiry, several government agencies, regulatory bodies and local government units aside from the FDA have been engaged by The Union and Bloomberg Initiative to promote their advocacy. Such engagements involving monetary grants must require proper disclosure and registration under the law,” he said.

A copy of this Committee Report will be furnished to the DOH, FDA, CSC, COA, and Department of Budget and Management for their information and appropriate action.

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