Monday, June 18, 2007

Today is D-day!

Today is the day!

In a couple of hours, the Department of Health (DOH) and the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) will be presenting oral arguments before the Supreme Court. We have been waiting with baited breath for this moment, and UNICEF and WHO have been working overtime the past couple of weeks to ensure media coverage of the issue. We have not been disappointed. Following our press briefing for Justice beat reporters yesterday, nearly all national broadsheets today have published reports about the Supreme Court hearing today. An example is the front-page report on Business Mirror published today:

Below is the Milk Code timeline, beginning in 1981 when the Milk Code was first drafted:

1981- Prof. Esteban Bautista of the UP Law Center drafted the Philippine National Code to regulate the marketing of breastmilk substitutes, breastmilk supplements and related products.

1981-1985 - NGOs, led by the National Coalition for the Promotion of Breastfeeding (NCPB), later named BUNSO, lobbied for the passage of the Philippine Code to the Batasan Pambansa lawmakers.

1983 - UNICEF supported the formation of the National Movement for the Promotion of Breastfeeding (NMPB), a conglomerate of government, NGOs and medical societies.

1986 - BUNSO staged a street march of breastfeeding mothers and babies, together with community leaders and doctors, lawyers and church representatives, in front of the offices of four milk companies: Nestle, Mead Johnson, Wyeth-Suaco and Abbott-Ross

1986 - Breastfeeding mothers and babies joined the final drafting of the Philippine National Code, popularly known as the Milk Code, along with the Department of Health and MalacaƱang Legal Team.

1986 - In October, President Corazon Aquino, joined by Executive Secretary Joker Arroyo, signed Executive Order 51 or the Milk Code. The ceremony was led by Health Secretary Alran Bengzon. It was graced by breastfeeding mothers and babies representing BUNSO and NMPB.

1987 - EO 51 took effect, Wyeth introduced follow-on formulas for six-month-old babies. When the Milk Code was still being drafted, follow-on formula was not yet invented.

1990s - Improvements on the Milk Code's IRR were made with the addition of a ban of follow-on formula that undermined breastfeeding as guided by World Health Assembly (WHA) Resolutions that stated: “follow-on or follow-up formulas are unnecessary because after six months, the baby starts to take complementary foods together with sustained breastfeeding.”

1992 - The Senate passed Republic Act 7600 or the Rooming-In/Breastfeeding Act. Breastfeeding mothers and their babies filed a petition and attended the public hearings. RA 7600 cited that breastfeeding could save the country valuable foreign exchange that would otherwise be used for milk importation.

1993 - The Mother- and Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative was launched.

1994 - Task Force Milk Code was formed.

1999 - Task Force Milk Code actively proposed stringent implementation of the Milk Code.

2000 - Task Force Milk Code’s resolutions were overturned by an Administrative Order issued by then Secretary of Health, Alberto Romualdez. The Milk Code’s IRR were revised, allowing milk manufacturers to be engaged in all forms of breastfeeding activities such as education, production and development of breastfeeding materials.

2004 - The Secretary of Health, Manuel Dayrit, signed the National Plan of Action 2005-2010 on Infant and Young Child Feeding.

2004 - Task Force Milk Code began discussion and debate on the first draft of the revised IRR. Nestle represented the milk companies.

2005 - The 11th and12th drafts of the revised IRR were discussed in public hearings led by BFAD-DOH. Simultaneously, the Senate, Congress and MalacaƱang had public hearing inquiries on Milk Code.

2006 - The Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) asked the Congressional Committee on Trade and Industry to conduct an inquiry on the Milk Code.

2006 - On May 15, the Secretary of Health, Francisco Duque III, signed the revised IRR of the Milk Code.

2006 - In July, the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) filed a suit against the Secretary of Health and all the undersecretaries and assistant secretaries who signed the revised IRR. PHAP petitioned for a temporary restraining order on its implementation. The Supreme Court denied PHAP’s petition.

2006 – On July 24, PHAP submits a motion for reconsideration to the Supreme Court, claiming that the milk industry would lose P9.96 billion, if the RIRR of EO 51 would be enforced.

2006 - On August 11, Thomas Donohue, President and Chief Executive Officer of the United States Chamber of Commerce, wrote to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The letter said that the RIRR “would have unintended negative consequences for investors’ confidence in the predictability of business law in the Philippines.”

2006 - On August 15, the Supreme Court overturned its previous decision and imposed a TRO on the RIRR. Representing PHAP was Atty. Felicitas Aquino-Arroyo, the wife of Senator Joker Arroyo, who was the Executive Secretary who signed the Milk Code in 1986.

2006 - In November, the Office of the Solicitor General petitioned the Supreme Court to lift the TRO. The Supreme Court denied this petition.

2007 - On 19 June, the Department of Health and Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) will present oral arguments in the Supreme Court.


Anonymous said...


This is really sad and maddening. I am based in the UK now and unlike there in the Philippines, there is very little advertisement of formula milk and the advertisement that the milk manufacturer are showing there would be considered misleading. I have a four year old girl and I've breastfeed her until she decided she'd had enough and I am currently pregnant with my second child and I will be definitely be breastfeeding again. My main reason for breastfeeding was the fact that it is better than formula milk and the second major reason is as tribute to all the mothers in the Philippines that I've seen breastfeeding. (Same reason why I opted to go for normal delivery with no pain relief because if they can do it, so can I).

If milk manufacturers brainwashes mothers into buying this formula milk, can this tactic be used by DOH to educate mothers to breastfeed? How about a campaign using a popular celebrity who have breastfed to front it (of course it will be great if this celebrity actually do it for free) and maybe try and ask TV stations to donate a bit of their primetime hours to air this advert. Does this sound far fetched? However, knowing the Filipino fascinations with celebrities, this might work, but getting celebrities and TV stations to do it for free might be a bit far off but who knows, someone might have a heart of gold and may see that this can actually save a lot of children lives and money for poor mothers who can't afford to buy formula milk.

By the way, I am a Filipino based in the UK.


Keep Abreast said...

Hi Hope! One of my theories is that women are disemmpowered during pregnancy and childbirth, and this contributes to their lack of confidence to breastfeed. During pregnancy and childbirth, women are made to believe that their bodies cannot go through these normal, biological processes without so much interventions from medicine. And so, after birth, it isn't too much of a stretch for women to think that they will be unable to fully meet the needs of their babies, particularly through breastfeeding.

The number one reason why Filipino women stop or do not breastfeed is because of the impression that they do not have any or enough breastmilk!

So you are right in opting for a drug-free birth in order to support your decision to breastfeed. Indeed, studies have shown that women who have received epidural are less likely to succeed in breastfeeding than women who had drug-free births.

I have had three drug-free births myself. Even as a young pregnant woman (I was 25 when I first got pregnatn), I knew and trusted that God had perfectly designed my body to grow and birth my child. So to me, the idea of doctors poking and prodding my body during birth (for instance to administer an epidural) was simply unacceptable and actually scarier than having a natural, drug-free birth.

Thanks for writing!


carmz said...


i'm a child psychologist/early childhood educator who has been advocating for breastfeeding for almost 18 years to my family, friends, students and acquaintances. my first child was breastfed totally for more than two years and she weighed even above average the whole time i breastfed her. i wanted to do the same with my second daughter but because she was born small for gestational age, i had to resort to mixed feeding upon her pediatrician's advice. i gave her a locally available brand that is supposed to boost her physical growth.

now, almost four years have passed since i used that very expensive formula (advertised by a celebrity mom)that is supposed to dramatically increase her height and weight, but nothing much has been gained. i'm now beginning to wonder if her physical growth might have been faster had i used solely my breast milk for her milk needs. you might say that my child and i have been victims of western advertisement and misguided local doctors most of whom are directly endorsing the milk products of the pharmaceutical companies that finance their expensive seminars and conventions out of town and abroad.

yes, we advocates of breastmilk need not only the support of policymakers but also that of local pediatricians. even if a much improved legislation supporting breastfeeding gets passed, as long as those professionals who are in direct contact with local mothers and babies and whose opinion mothers value (and pay for highly)and follow, our efforts will always be stumped. i would like to add to the suggestion of anonymous that celebrity mothers endorse brestfeeding - well-known pediatricians should also join the cause. our local culture is such that most mothers still obey their doctors 100% of the time.