BELOW is a chronology of events leading to the enactment of Executive Order No. 51, the Philippine Milk Code, and subsequent developments on the issue:
- Prof. Esteban Bautista of the UP Law Center drafted the Philippine National Code to regulate the marketing of breast milk substitutes, breast milk supplements and related products.
- NGOs led by the National Coalition for the Promotion of Breastfeeding (NCPB), later named BUNSO, lobbied for the passage of the Philippine Code to the Batasan Pambansa lawmakers.
- Unicef supported the formation of the National Movement for the Promotion of Breastfeeding (NMPB), a conglomerate of government, NGOs and medical societies.
- BUNSO staged a street march of breastfeeding mothers and babies together with community leaders and doctors, lawyers and church representatives, in front of the offices of four milk companies: Nestle, Mead Johnson, Wyeth-Suaco, and Abbott-Ross.
- Breastfeeding mothers and babies joined the final drafting of the Philippine National Code popularly known as the Milk Code, along with the Department of Health and Malacañang legal team.
- In October, President Corazon Aquino, joined by Executive Secretary Joker Arroyo, signed Executive Order 51 or the Milk Code. The ceremony was led by Health Secretary Alran Bengzon. It was graced by breastfeeding mothers and babies representing BUNSO and NMPB.
- EO 51 took effect, Wyeth introduced follow-on formulas for six-month-old babies. When the Milk Code was still being drafted, follow-on formula was not yet invented.
- Improvements on the Milk Code’s IRR were made with the addition of a ban on follow-on formula that undermined breastfeeding as guided by World Health Assembly (WHA) Resolutions that stated: “follow-on or follow-up formulas are unnecessary because after six months, the baby starts to take complementary foods together with sustained breastfeeding.
- The Senate passed Republic Act 7600 or the Rooming-In/Breastfeeding Act. Breastfeeding mothers and their babies filed a petition and attended the public hearings. RA 7600 cited that breastfeeding could save the country valuable foreign exchange that would otherwise be used for milk importation.
- The Mother and Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative was launched.
- Task Force Milk Code was formed.
- Task Force Milk Code actively proposed stringent implementation of the Milk Code.
- Task Force Milk Code’s resolutions were overturned by an Administrative Order issued by then secretary of Health Alberto Romualdez. The Milk Code’s IRR were revised, allowing milk manufacturers to be engaged in all forms of breastfeeding activities such as education, production and development of breastfeeding materials.
- The Secretary of Health, Manuel Dayrit, signed the National Plan of Action 2005–2010 on Infant and Young Child Feeding.
- Task Force Milk Code began discussion and debate on the first draft of the revised IRR. Nestle represented the milk companies.
- The 11th and 12th drafts of the revised IRR were discussed in public hearings led by BFAD–DOH. Simultaneously, the Senate, House of Representatives and Malacañang had public hearing inquiries on Milk Code.
- The Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) filed a suit against the Secretary of Health and all the undersecretaries and assistant secretaries who signed the revised IRR. PHAP petitioned for a temporary restraining order on it’s implementation. The Supreme Court denied PHAP’s petition.
- On August 11, Thomas Donahue, President and Chief Executive Officer of the United States Chamber of Commerce, wrote to the President Gloria MAcapagal-Arroyo. The letter said that the RIRR “would have unintended negative consequences for investors’ confidence in the predictability of business law in the Philippines.”
- On August 15, the Supreme Court overturned its previous decision and imposed a TRO on the RIRR. Representing PHAP was Atty. Felicitas Aquino-Arroyo, the wife of Senator Joker Arroyo, who was the executive secretary who signed the Milk Code in 1986.
- In November, the office of the Solicitor General petitioned the Supreme Court to lift the TRO.
- On June 19, the Department of Health and Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) will present oral arguments before the Supreme Court.
Source: United Nations Population Fund