25 May 2016

Position Paper

Council for Health and Development (CHD)


Reference: Eleanor A. Jara, MD

Executive Director, CHD

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EU-PH FTA: A Bitter Pill To Swallow

We, the Council for Health and Development denounce the imminent free trade agreement (FTA) between the European Union (EU) and the government of the Philippines.

We believe that the EU-PH FTA will trample any remaining barriers to the facilitation of complete trade liberalization, investment, and intellectual property rights (IPR) clauses under Philippine laws.

Thus, we want to raise serious concern over this agreement that will undoubtedly promote increased privatization of health and unaffordable medicines — leading to further retrogression of people’s access to health and services.

The Philippines’ health landscape paints a dark and neglected picture. Seven out of ten Filipinos die without seeing a doctor; the average hospital bill amounts to three times the monthly salary of a minimum wage earner; death by preventable and curable diseases is a common trend.

As the current health situation of Filipinos edge towards collapse, the pharmaceutical market remains at a steady boom.

In the first quarter of 2015, pharmaceutical output, drugs, and medicines account for 46% of the medical out-of-pocket expenses of Filipino households, according to Business Monitoring International (BMI) Research. For the poor, the percentage rises to 55% of their household expenses. Out-of-pocket demand for drugs and medications was projected to reach Php155 billion (US$3.46 billion), an increase of Php30 billion (US$664 million) since 2010.

Overall, foreign pharmaceutical companies captured almost two-thirds or Php 417.20 billion of the total Php649 billion Philippine pharmaceutical market from 2006-2011. Of the 17 top manufacturers of drugs and medicines in 2012, eleven were foreign-owned (seven of these originate from EU countries).

In a span of ten years (2004-14), trade in goods between EU and the Philippines already manifested unfair incomes: EU exports to the PH grew from €3.6 billion to €6.8 billion while EU imports from PH went down from €6.9 billion to €5.7.

By entering into an agreement that is not as “fair” as it is touted, the Philippine government surrenders any remaining protection in the local economy.

Foreign domination on the Philippine drug market, where the European Union is a major player, stunts local drug manufacturers, impose expensive prices of medicine, and trump any shot at establishing a genuine drug industry.

In this regard, the Council for Health and Development strongly opposes any free trade agreement between the EU and the Philippine government. We believe that health should be left out of any free trade deal as it would undermine people’s welfare by putting profit over public interest; allowing infusion of more private capital in public hospitals; bleeding the country dry of health human resources; and monopolizing the drug industry.

Alternatively, the Philippine health sector proposes the following to the government:

• Provide free, comprehensive, and progressive health care by developing and strengthening the public health care system;

• Nationalize and build the pharmaceutical industry to provide safe, accessible, affordable, and effective medicine;

• Establish a clear health human resource development plan by ensuring an equitable distribution of personnel, funds and resources;

• Promote and uphold the interest of health workers and professionals by increasing the basic salary of health workers and end the practice of labor contractualization;

• Scrap anti-people health policies that facilitate privatization of public hospitals, operation of large scale mining and coal, brain-drain of health professionals, Salary Standardization Law and Wage Rationalization Law, and No Home Birthing Policy;

• Solve the socio-economic and political factors affecting people’s health.

The people’s health and welfare should be a priority of any government and maintain its independence from any foreign business dictate. Problems on health and other social services can only be met when there is genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization.

Together, we must demand for a free, comprehensive, and progressive health care founded on equity, justice, and people’s rights. We say NO to EU-Philippines Free Trade Agreement!

Established in 1989, CHD is the national organization of 64 community based health programs all over the Philippines.