Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan joins the growing number of legislative champions for trans fat elimination in the Philippines as he filed Senate Bill No. 1954 “An Act to Protect Filipinos From the Harmful Effects of Trans Fatty Acids” on December 15, 2020.
Sen. Pangilinan, a member of the Committee on Health and Demography, filed the Trans Fat Free Bill which aims to address the prevalence of noncommunicable diseases in the Philippines by eliminating industrially-produced trans fatty acids (iTFA) from the food supply.
High intake of iTFA causes coronary heart diseases (CHD), a leading cause of death worldwide, and known comorbidity of COVID-19. In line with the mandate of the Universal Health Care law to provide cost-effective and preventive health services to the population, the Trans Fat Free Philippines Bill will regulate the production and distribution of iTFA, thereby reducing the health risks of TFA intake to the public.
An advocate for the full implementation of universal health care, Sen. Pangilinan underscored the significance of responding to the global call of becoming trans fat free by 2023. More countries are now joining the movement as the relevance of TFA regulations become more pronounced. Sen. Pangilinan notes that countries like Denmark and Argentina have already witnessed a remarkable decline of up to 75% in CHD-related deaths, subsequent to the passage of policies on TFA elimination.
The filing of SB 1954 or the Trans Fat Free Philippine Bill also aligns with Sen. Pangilinan’s recent COVID-19 response efforts, which are focused on addressing pressing health issues in the country. He recognizes that the pandemic is “a health problem,” thus, solutions “must be health-centric.” He previously filed Senate Bill No. 1759 or the Pandemic Protection Act of 2020, which seeks to provide tax exemptions to Filipino manufacturers, ensuring a steady supply of medical products during the pandemic and other health emergencies. In his explanatory statement to SB 1954, Sen Pangilinan emphasizes the need to urgently pass the bill during the pandemic, citing that 49% of COVID-19 deaths in the country had comorbidities.
Senator Nancy S. Binay, Vice-Chair for the Health Committee, also recently filed a version of the Trans Fat Free Philippines Bill in the Senate numbered SB 1916. The bill is currently pending in the joint Senate Committees on Trade and Health. The legislations are supported by civil society organizations in public health such as ImagineLaw, a public interest law organization.