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Yesterday, Sept 4, we celebrated a small victory. Breastfeeding advocates, defenders and champions blocked the Monster Bill from being railroaded through the joint Health and Trade Committee hearing. On one side, Rep. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro 2nd district and company, arguing vehemently for "informed choice" –his definition of advertising-- and 0-6months limitation on advertising. On the other side, breastfeeding champion Rep. Anna York- Bondoc of Pampanga, who was very strong and vocal in defending breastfeeding against the underhanded tactics of the multinational milk companies, despite giving birth via CS only a week ago after a difficult pregnancy, together with Akbayan Party List Rep. Walden Bello, Rep. Teddy Casino, Rep. Philip Pichay, Gabriela Party List headed by Rep. Emmi De Jesus and Rep. Luz Ilagan, Makabayan Coalition of 5 party lists, Rep. Lani Mercado-Revilla, Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez, --the latter two retracted their support for the Monster Bill and recommended advertising ban for 0-36 months-- UNICEF, DOH, Save the Babies Coalition, Gabriela Women’s Group, Coalition of various medical associations, and other breastfeeding advocate groups. The meeting ended in suspended animation with Rep. Rodriguez and company relenting to advertising ban for 0-12 months while advocates group pushing for 0-24months. The joint committee moved to set another hearing to vote on amendments to the Monster Bill. Our campaign continues... KILL THE BILL!Meanwhile, Rep. Pichay shared his experiences as a former employee of a multinational milk company. He shared how formula milk was manufactured - using artificial ingredients. More importantly, he shared a very important tidbit about balancing of interests. Cong. Rufus refused to increase the advertising ban to 36 months because there needs to be a "balance of interests". This was also the position of Cong. Tomas Apacible - Chairman of the Committee on Trade. A similar refrain can be seen in Cong. Lani Mercado's position paper:
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The Makabayan Coalition also shared their thoughts and unanimously withdrew their support from the bill. Rep. Teddy Casino referred to the chart pasted above and questioned Department of Health's Eric Tayag and was able to elicit a statement that the DOH wants the ban to be at 36 months. Meanwhile, Rep. Neri Colmenares emphasized that the Milk Monster Bill was the EPAL of the milk companies.
An interesting point that Rep. Walden Bello raised was why IPNAP joined the Joint Technical Working Group meetings on the proposed breastfeeding bill. In fact, if you see the photo in my tweet below, you can see how cozy the IPNAP representative (the one in the suit) was - even being served coffee on the main table - where only Representatives and Congress staff were allowed to sit.
|IPNAP rep in the suit, enjoying his coffee|
This is still going to be one long and difficult battle!