Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Philippines campaign gains coverage in Australia

Our partners in the Philippines continue to campaign in support of the Ministry of Health regulations for the marketing of baby foods. These are being challenged in the court by US pharmaceutical companies and the US Chamber of Commerce has put pressure on the President to intervene, following which the regulations were suspended. Nestlé claims to support the regulations, but has opposed key provisions and we understand is backing a bill in the congress that would implement its own weaker measures in place of the Ministry of Health ones.

Top tip: you can bring all my past blogs on this topic together in one window with a search on 'Philippines'.

With powerful vested interests using all their influence through the courts and outside them to undermine the regulations so they continue the type of aggressive marketing exposed on our website, it is essential that the rest of the world take notice.

We have helped to gain coverage for this issue in the UK, the Philippines and elsewhere, while our partners in the Philippines have organised mass demonstrations and submitted papers to the Supreme Court, hearing the case.

Now we see that the Australian media is noticing the machinations of the baby food industry in the Philippines, with an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, including interviews with Ines Fernandez (from our partner organisation) and UNICEF Philippines.

Here is an extract from the full article: which relates the argument over regulations to the very real impact on infant feeding decisions and infant health amongst the T'boli tribes people in the remote hills of the Mindanao, in the southern Philippines.


The World Health Organisation estimates 16,000 babies a year die in the Philippines as a result of a decline in breastfeeding. Today, only 16 per cent of children at four to five months are exclusively breastfed, down from 25 per cent in 1998.

The international benchmark is for exclusive breastfeeding until six months and continuous breastfeeding until two years. "The aspiration [of the T'boli] was if they had money, they would buy the milk, because every night they see milk advertisements on television," said breastfeeding campaigner Ines Fernandez.

In a country where UNICEF estimates 20 to 30 per cent of children are malnourished, the organisation sees breastfeeding as an essential tool in the fight against disease. "Breastfeeding is a hallmark of child health. It's a magic bullet in child survival.

"There is an ocean of evidence now that you can prevent disease, surround the child in a hygienic cocoon," said Dale Rutstein, UNICEF's spokesman in Manila.

Ms Fernandez's civil society group, Arugaan, with the Philippines Department of Health, is locked in a legal battle with the powdered milk industry to tighten regulations on false advertising and distribution of infant formula.


The article explains about the efforts of the industry to stop the regulations and refers to the assassination in December of the government lawyer, Nestor Ballacillo, defending the case. No link is yet proven, though the Solicitor General has suggested there may be one.

This coverage does not happen in isolation. There are paid avertisements that look like news articles, arguing that regulation is unnecessary. More on those soon.

1 comment:

Nona D. Andaya-Castillo, IBCLC said...

More than 6,000 Filipino Mothers Simultaneously Breastfeed Nationwide

Filipino mothers trooped to daycare centers, hospitals, and private-sponsored sites will be the venues for a nationwide simultaneous breastfeeding in the Philippines dubbed as Sabay-sabay, Sumuso sa Nanay Year 2. As of the last count of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), more than 6,000 mothers joined the event. It aims to institutionalize simultaneous breastfeeding as an annual form of a national prayer of thanksgiving for motherhood and breastfeeding.

Two International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC) Elvira L. Henares-Esguerra, MD, FPDS, RPh, IBCLC and Nona D. Andaya-Castillo, IBCLC, conceptualized the activity and mobilized the support of the DSWD and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to establish the first Guinness World Record on Simultaneous Breastfeeding in Multiple Sites. Hospitals under the Department of Health also joined the event by gathering mothers who gave birth on that day to breastfeed and pray simultaneously.

The event was aired in all government radio and TV stations to ensure synchrony in the countdown. Other major TV networks and the international press covered the affair.

As members of the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) and International Babyfood Action Network (IBFAN), the IBCLCs have upheld the international standard of ethics that refuse the participation of milk companies and companies that produce bottles, teats and pacifiers in any breastfeeding promotional activity. They ensured that this principle was strictly enforced in this affair.

Children aged 3 to 5 years old enrolled in the daycare centers witnessed the simultaneous breastfeeding to imprint in their young minds that breastfeeding is the norm. The organizers hope that this consciousness will create a supportive environment for breastfeeding mothers and that these children will opt to breastfeed when they become parents themselves.

During the event, mothers and children were fed with sweet potatoes, corn, bananas and other local or indigenous foods to increase the awareness and appreciation of these nutrient-dense foods to feed older infants and young children, instead of “follow-up formula milk.”

Last year, the City of Manila, in partnership with the IBCLC’s organizations Children for Breastfeeding, Inc. and Nurturers of the Earth, Inc. garnered the Guinness World Record on Simultaneous Breastfeeding in a Single Site when they mobilized 3,541 mothers in San Andres Sports Complex and Civic Center. They broke the previous USA record of 1,130 breastfeeding mothers established in Berkeley, California in 2002.

The simultaneous breastfeeding is a build-up activity to raise public concern on the forthcoming Supreme Court hearing on the merits of the case instituted by the milk companies against the Department of Health. The two IBCLCs together with other breastfeeding advocates led an intervention and a motion to lift the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) imposed by the Supreme Court against the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the National Code last December 2006.

The affair is a part of the IBCLC’s campaign that gained tremendous public attention and national impact when they initiated a Senate hearing in May 2005. The Senate hearing prompted President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to direct the National Anti-Poverty Commission to meet and present the issue of Infant and Young Child Feeding in a Presidential Cabinet meeting were the two IBCLCs also actively participated.

The President issued Presidential Proclamation to institutionalize World Breastfeeding Week last August 2005 after the IBCLCs convinced her during an exclusive dinner with the Henares family in Malacanang, the official presidential palace. In partnership with the Department of Health and UNICEF, they launched the Proclamation in a grand celebration in Malacanang.

The IBCLCs also propelled several Congress hearings when they demanded the Congressional Committee on Trade and Industry to hear the side of the breastfeeding advocates upon learning that milk companies approached the Committee to protest against the IRR. They spoke and exposed the unethical marketing practices of the milk companies in these hearings.

Gathering 560 signatures in a petition to support the IRR from 20 out of 23 senators, 76 congressmen, the entire Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines, leaders of other religious groups, doctors, lawyers, NGOS and mothers, the IBCLCs published a full page ad in two major newspapers.

They mobilized legal luminaries like former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and present ambassador to the United Nations Hilario Davide and former Solicitor General and International Jurist Raul Goco to assist the Office of the Solicitor General in pursuing the case in the Supreme Court.

As a part of the technical working group that drafted the IRR and National Plan of Action on Infant and Young Child Feeding, the two IBCLCs organized another celebration of World Breastfeeding Week to launch the landmark documents in Malacanang in 2006. The celebration also highlighted the 20th year of the National Code and the 25th year of the International Code.

To widen their base of support, the IBCLCs organized the Grand Alliance Against Corporate Greed and joined forces with the local and the Geneva and Boston-based anti-tobacco lobbyists, environmentalist, health and consumer groups that they launched in a Malacanang press conference in September 2006.

SM Supermalls built the first breastfeeding-friendly mall in the country by putting-up a breastfeeding station after the IBCLCs approached the Supermalls’ top management. The two IBCLCs gave orientation seminars to mall tenants, administrative staff, security and sanitation personnel prior to and during the launch. Pleased with the project outcome, the top management decided to replicate the project in 32 malls nationwide. Thus far, the IBCLCs have launched 12 breastfeeding stations and gave orientations to 100 to 300 participants before and during every launching.

Two photo exhibits to promote a positive image of breastfeeding mothers were set-up in the malls prior to every launching. These photo exhibits were launched in Malacanang and toured the Philippine Congress during the hearings on the issue and in several schools.

In September 2006, the two IBCLCs established the Philippine Lactation Resource and Training Center at TESDA Women’s Center that will create training standards and school curricula on breastfeeding counseling, train breastfeeding counselors, Code monitors and breastfeeding advocates. UNICEF and TESDA funded the two batches of scholars while the Department of Health approved and endorsed the course.

The two IBCLCs also established the Philippine Academy of Lactation Consultants in August 2005, as an affiliate of the Philippine Medical Association. It heads the present move to institute breastfeeding education as a part of the Continuing Medical Education (CME). They will launch a document called Guidelines for Physicians to Promote, Protect and Support Breastfeeding during a post-graduate session on the 100th anniversary convention of the PMA in May this year.