Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Philippines: US lobbies against cheap medicines bill.

This is from the Tribune.

This is typical of US attempts to influence legislation but in the Philippines it is liable to cause strong reactions especially since the press in the Philippines is actually quite free. Ratings of press freedoms are bad only because of the dangers to journalists! After Iraq, the Philippines has the most attacks on journalists but it seems without effect. I was struck by the fact that the press there is much more free-wheeling than in the US or Canada by far. Some newspapers such as the Tribune can be quite radical.


Cheap medicines bill faces rough sailing in bicam — solon



12/19/2007

A member of the House of Representatives yesterday accused the United States of lobbying against the passage of the cheaper medicines bill, warning that the Philippines would be going against the trend in the US free trade agreements with other countries once the bill becomes a law.

Akbayan Rep. Riza Hontiveros, during a press conference yesterday said the US Trade Representative in the country is actively lobbying with the members of the House committee on trade and industry to junk the cheaper medicines bill.

“They ought to be reminded that the Philippines is not a colony of the United States,” Hontiveros said.

She added a copy of the US government’s position paper was circulated to members of the House trade and industry committee.

“Predictably, the Office of the US Trade Representative echoed the position of multinational pharmaceutical companies. They don’t want a stricter definition of patentability to protect the monopoly of big pharmaceutical companies,” Hontiveros said.

She added the US also wants to limit the government’s use of compulsory licensing.

Hontiveros also took exception to the warning that the bill is contrary to the interests of the US in its free trade pacts with other countries.

“This is a clear connivance between multinational pharmaceutical companies and the US government ,” she said, adding “the US government is using the US-RP free trade agreement, which is still being negotiated under the US-RP bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, as their trump card,”

Hontiveros revealed that the target of the multinational pharmaceutical companies – the Intellectual Property Code Amendments – has not been removed when the bill was passed on second reading.

She called on her colleagues in the House and other cause-oriented groups to be vigilant as the bill would still be going through a series of amendatory process in the bicameral conference committee meetings.

Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., for his part, said the overwhelming vote for the bill on Monday “disproved once and for all the notion of a lobby out to derail approval of the legislation long awaited by the Filipino people.”

“We have fully disproved that there is a strong lobby against the measure. The people’s interest has clearly prevailed,” he said.

House Bill 2884 aims to bring down the prices of medicines through a regulatory body headed by the Department of Trade and Industry secretary and amending Republic Act 8239 of the Intellectual Property Code to allow parallel importation of patented drugs and disallow the grant of new patents. The bill, which was deliberated upon by the trade committee of Rep. Antonio Alvarez, was principally authored by Rep. Ferjenel Biron.

Cebu Rep. Pablo Garcia in a privilege speech batted for the removal of the provision for the creation of the Drug Price Regulation Board that would control the prices of medicines.

Gerry Baldo

No comments: