MANILA — The Department of Health (DOH) said on Sunday it is confident that the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) for the Graphic Health Warnings (GHWs) on cigarette packs can be released before March 2016.

DOH Secretary Janette Garin said that the IRR is currently in the process of signing by the heads of the various departments involved in the implementation of the law, Republic Act No. 10643.

Secretary Garin added that the DOH, for its part, has finished signing the IRR.

“We have long signed the IRR, but there are also a number of secretaries who are signatories to it. It is already being circulated. Majority have already signed it,” she said.

She also said that the IRR can be released before next month.

R.A. 10643 provides that the IRR Inter-Agency Committee shall be composed of the DOH, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Finance (DOF), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Education (DepED), Department of Agriculture (DA), and National Tobacco Administration (NTA).

Sources said those that have already signed the IRR are the DOH, DA, DOF, and DOJ and NTA.

Once the IRR has been signed by all signatories, Secretary Garin said the documents will be sent back to the DOH.

“Once everyone has signed it, the IRR will be returned to us so we can already release it,” she said.

Secretary Garin issued Administrative Order No. 2014-0037-A, which contained the GHW templates, last March 2, 2015.

This means that the GHW Law should already take effect on March 3.

Signed into law on July 15, 2014 by President Benigno S. Aquino III, R.A. 10643 aims to discourage the public, through the use of images of the adverse health effects of smoking, from continuing or starting cigarette smoking vice.

There are 12 templates of photographs designed by DOH to show the ill effects of smoking on health that tobacco companies should print on their tobacco packaging.

With the release of the IRR by March 2016, it is expected that tobacco products without GHWs in the packaging will not be allowed to be pulled out from the tobacco companies beginning on that period.

From March 2016, another eight months is being given to both manufacturers and retailers to remove from the market all cigarette packages without GHWs that were previously out before the deadline.

The cigarette packs that do not have GHWs are presumed to be out in the market prior to the release of the IRR.

The GHW law states that manufacturers and retailers shall ensure the removal of all displays of non-compliant tobacco product packages eight months after the picture warnings are required.

Earlier, the New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) came out with a statement saying tobacco manufacturers should start complying with R.A. 10643. Leilani Junio/PNA/