MANILA - Health advocates were dismayed over the failure of the Department of Health (DOH) to implement the printing of graphic health warnings on cigarette packs this month.

The government is supposed to enforce this November Republic Act 10643 or the Graphic Health Warnings Law, which requires 50 percent of cigarette labels to display images of harmful effects of smoking.

"If you read section 18 of RA 10643, it states that there should be no delays in implementing this law. It says this is urgent. It needs to be implemented immediately," said Atty. Karla Rocas-Dejelo of the Health Justice Philippines.

Amid the delay, the Health Department said it will fully implement the graphic health warning label as soon as the drafting of the implementing rules and regulations of the law is finished.

"We are still finishing the IRR. But we all agreed that these will be released very soon," DOH external affairs and regulations chair Alex Padilla said.

The DOH said tobacco companies should not release cigarette packs without graphic health warning labels starting March 2016.

The agency added that selling of cigarette packs without the required labels under the law will be prohibited by November next year.

But health advocates insisted that the law must be implemented now, citing a DOH data that 240 Filipinos die from tobacco-related diseases everyday.

"It's been delayed for four months already. How many Filipinos could we have saved?" Dejelo said.

The Philippines is one of the four countries in the ASEAN region that do not have graphic health warning labels on cigarette packs.