As early as 1986, the Philippines already enacted a law regulating the advertisement of breastmilk substitutes, called the Milk Code. Almost a decade later, implementing rules and regulations (RIRR) were revised and redrafted by the responsible agency - the Department of Health and became subject of a controversial case between the Pharmaceutical and Health Care Association of the Philippines (PHAP) and the Department of Health and others. The case reached all the way to the Philippine Supreme Court who promulgated a decision in 9 October 2007.
The resulting Supreme Court decision did not result in a complete victory for either party. The Supreme Court struck down certain provisions of the RIRR particularly those which absolutely prohibit the advertising/promotion/sponsorships of infant formula, breastmilk substitutes and other related products. However, the Court agreed with the Department of Health that these advertisements/promotions needed prior regulation.
Regulation is being handled by the Inter-Agency Committee established by the Milk Code, whose Secretariat is with BFAD (809-4390, loc. 1051-1052). Responsible individuals include Ms. Merle Ramos, Flor de Moralejos and Atty. Christine de Guzman.
This topic is a thorny and controversial one but I believe that as breastfeeding advocates/counselors, we should at least read and be familiar with the law and its implementing rules and regulations. I, myself, want to know more about the Milk Code and whether the implementing rules/regulations have really taken effect – which was why I was happy to learn about the upcoming Milk Code Forum organized by Arugaan, UP Women in Law and UP Volunteers for Children, to be held at the UP College of Law on August 8, 2009.
The forum will focus on breastfeeding issues, the Milk Code Story, the Supreme Court decision and monitoring under the Milk Code as well as do’s and don’ts. With our upcoming Breastfeeding Awareness Festival, I really do want to know what we should watch out for that may be considered to be violative of the Milk Code. This promises to be a very enlightening event and I definitely will be there. For interested attendees, contact Nanay Ines of Arugaan.