Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Your messages of support are front page news in the Philippines today

Republic of the Philippines gains support on Milk Code stand.

That's a front-page headline in the Philippines today, brought about by your support for Baby Milk Action's campaign of international solidarity with the country. The Government has been taken to court by US and Swiss baby food companies who are trying to undermine regulations on the marketing of their products. The US Chamber of Commerce wrote to the President encouraging interference in the court case and a few days later the regulations were suspended.

You can find the story unfolding on this blog, and details of the international solidarity campaign on our November Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet.

This is how the Daily Inquirer's article today, 21 November, opens:

"EXPRESSIONS of support from the United States, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom have poured in in the wake of the "blackmail"of the Philippine government by American businessmen over the country..s rules regulating the marketing of infant milk formula.

"Do not let yourself be bullied by these outrageously inhuman beings -- they are not supported by the citizens of their countries," a mother from the United States wrote in an Internet-based "petition of solidarity" started by the global advocacy group Baby Milk Action.

"I admire the Philippines (for) taking this strong action to protect infants," wrote another mother from Canada. "Infant health should always take precedence over corporate interests."

Similar messages continue to fill the online Baby Milk Action petition, all attacking the Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America.

You can read the full article at http://newsinfo.inq7.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view_article.php?article_id=33842 (please let me know if the link dies). You have likely caused a bit of a stir as the Daily Inquirer circulation is the most widely read broadsheet newspaper in the Philippines: "With over 2.7 million nationwide readers daily, it enjoys a market share of over 50% and tops the readership surveys".

The article relates the story of the Chamber of Commerce letter, which was exposed by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) back in October. See:

The article explains how the Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier described the Chamber of Commerce letter as a form of "pressure" and "a subtle blackmail" and states that the President's press secretary said Duque was acting in the country's "interest."

However, the spotlight being shone on the attempt to undermine measures intended to protect all infants - whether breastfed or bottled-fed - may not yet be enough to counter the pressure. The Daily Inquirer reports the press secretary said the government was also trying to "address" the concerns of the American businessmen.

Another of your comments from the solidarity campaign is quoted in the article:

From England, a certain Jennifer wrote: "The health of children of the Philippines is of far greater importance than the accumulation of profits by baby milk companies. It is shameful that companies and individuals should undermine the health of babies purely to make money."

In other developments, the campaign has prompted responses from Abbott and Wyeth which have been forwarded to us by supporters. These US companies are involved in the legal action against the government. We are analysing these to post on our website shortly. Nestlé Philippines wrote to us directly expressing its 'disappointed' in being included in our campaign when, as we state, it is not part of the legal action. It claims it has supported the new regulations in writing.


Well a full analysis from us will appear shortly, but the Inquirer article explains that what Nestlé means by support is in practice:

The company said it was also supporting an advertising ban on breast milk substitutes for infants aged up to 12 months. In contrast, the [new regulations] regulates the advertising of milk formula for children aged up to 24 months, which is consistent with the World Health Assembly resolutions and the Infant and Young Child Feeding Convention to which the Philippines is a signatory.

Tut tut Nestlé. We are very disappointed at such economy with the truth.

So this still has a way to run yet. Please keep the comments and petition signatures coming in please. As you can see action YOU take in response to our campaigns has an impact in supporting mothers and infants on the other side of the planet.

Finally, remember the blog entry about 1,000 women coming together at a demonstration in the Philippines with umbrellas sporting slogans in support of breastfeeding in defence of the regulations?

I thought you might like to see some pictures.

Philippines umbrellas

Philippines umbrellas

Philippines umbrella slogans

Click for large versions. Photo credit: ARUGAAN (IBFAN Philippines), 2006.

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