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2 senators slam DTI over non-confiscation of prohibited vape flavors

Two senators on Friday slammed the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) over its failure to confiscate flavored vape products that are prohibited under the law.

At a Senate hearing, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva presented photos of candy and fruit-flavored vape juices which are currently available in online shopping platforms.

He raised that under the law, the DTI has the power to issue an order directing that non-compliant web pages be taken down and that online sellers may be held liable.

DTI Fair Trade and Enforcement Bureau Assistant Director Marimel Porciuncula affirmed Villanueva's remark, saying it has the power to confiscate under the agency's existing rules.

This prompted Senator Pia Cayetano to ask if the DTI had already confiscated any of these products to which DTI Assistant Secretary Ann Claire Cabochan responded: "Based on the enforcement operations, we have not confiscated."

"Why not? Sinabi mo na. Ni-report niyo amin, and I took note of it, you have 16 show-cause orders," Cayetano said.

(You already said that  you have 16 show-cause orders.)

At the early part of the hearing, Cabochan said the DTI Fair Trade Enforcement Bureau has already issued 16 show-cause orders against violators of the law and issued the same against 44 online sellers.

"So you found this, so paano, picture-taking tapos submission? Tapos show-cause? Mismong lawyer niyo ang nagsasabing you have the power to confiscate. Parang kulang naman sa briefing ang enforcement niyo," she went on.

(So you found this but what did you do about it? Did you just take a picture for submission and then show-cause? Your lawyer said it herself that you have the power to confiscate. It seems like your enforcement bureau was not briefed properly.)

Cabochan tried to explain the DTI's process on violations of fair trade but she was cut short by Cayetano after the latter noticed Villanueva's gesture showing a "sign of frustration."

"For the record, pinunas-punasan na ni [majority floor leader] ang mukha niya...I have to put that on record because that is a sign of frustration. Wala na kaming magawa dahil kami naman ay disenteng senador, hindi kami nagmumura dito, nagpipilit kaming hindi magtaas ng boses. So hanggang ganyan na lang kami, nagpipisil na lang kami ng mukha namin.My God. Lord," Cayetano said.

Villanueva also took a swipe at the DTI officials and said that the agency must do its job.

"Baka kasi mas in-depth pa tayong mag-aral dito sa Senado than the implementing agency," he quipped.

"Kami po dito tuwing naghi-hearing nag-aaral po kami at ginagawa po namin lahat ng aming magagawa para makatulong. Sana po magtulungan tayo at sana po gawin din po natin ang trabaho natin," he added.

(Every time that we hold a hearing, we make sure that we study and we do everything that we can to help. I hope that we help each other and I hope that you also do your job.)

The Senate committee on sustainable goals and development, chaired by Cayetano, conducted a hearing on the supposed violation of the Vaporized Nicotine Regulation Act.

This stemmed from Cayetano's privilege speech  on vape flavors and designs which draw young people to the products.

Section 12 of the Vape Law  provides that “The sale of vaporized nicotine and non-nicotine products and novel tobacco products that are packaged, labeled, presented, or marketed with flavor descriptors that are proven to unduly appeal particularly to minors shall be prohibited."

The Senate has already adopted an unnumbered resolution denouncing the sale and marketing of e-cigarettes and other vape products towards the youth.—LDF, GMA Integrated News