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Smoke-free task force members trade learning with fellow LGU tobacco control trailblazers in 3-day workshop

BAGUIO CITY - Members of the Baguio City Smoke-Free Task Force led by Councilor Joel Alangsab and city tobacco control officer Dr. Donnabel Tubera exchanged knowledge and strategies on tobacco control advocacy with counterparts from Balanga City in Bataan and nearby La Trinidad town which along with Baguio City are considered trailblazers in the development and implementation of progressive tobacco control policies in Luzon during the capacity development workshop held last June 21-23 in Balanga City.

Conducted by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and HealthJustice Philippines, the workshop sought "to synergize the efforts of tobacco control advocates both at the local and national levels though learning sessions" on the smoke-free programs of the Philippines, community partnership and mobilization, alternative lawyering or lawyering for the public interest and communication strategies.

HealthJusticePhils. Managing Director Jacky Sarita said the participants were "expected to gain additional insight and knowledge, synergize skill sets among stakeholders on possible strategies in promoting and protecting local initiatives on tobacco control and develop a comprehensive advocacy plans that may be applied at both local and national levels of engagement."

Baguio and Balanga cities presented their campaign strategies based on the MPOWER measures set by the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC).

The FCTC is a United Nations treaty that seeks "to protect present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke by enacting a set of universal standards stating the dangers of tobacco and limiting its use in all forms worldwide."

According to HealthJustice, only 125 of the total number of local government units in the country are compliant to the FCTC including Baguio and Balanga.

Balanga under Mayor Francis Anthony Garcia is now a Hall of Famer in the Red Orchid Awards for implementing the 100 percent Tobacco-Free Environment.

However, the locality is now the subject of two lawsuits filed by the Philippine Tobacco Institute over the implementation of its comprehensive anti-smoking ordinance in the whole city in 2016 and of the tobacco-free generation measure recently.

During the discussions, it was pointed out that Balanga's situation is pivotal and would serve as the as the test case that would either affirm or destroy local autonomy on tobacco control.

Mayor Garcia however assured that the City will not waver in its anti-smoking resolve even in the event of an unfavorable ruling on the case.

Baguio City is on a wait-and-see status on whether it would suffer the same fate as Balanga with its newly strengthened anti-smoking ordinance still in the early stages of implementation.

Mayor Mauricio Domogan who heads the task force also expressed resolve to achieve a 100-percent smoke-free mark.

He said the City is one of the LGUs with early history of anti-smoking campaign which for the City began as early as 1966 when the then city council adopted Ordinance No. 433 series of 1966 prohibiting smoking in theaters and moviehouses which was supplemented by Ordinance No. 596 series of 1974 which includes vehicles in the smoking ban.

In 1989, the city council adopted Ordinance No. 24 series of 1989 which expands the smoking prohibition to include public conveyances, theaters, assembly halls, hospital rooms and corridors, government offices and classrooms.

In 2003, then mayor Bernardo Vergara infused new blood in the then dormant campaign when he directed the city's compliance with Republic Act No. 9211 or the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003 and the strict implementation of the Ordinance No. 24-89 of the city which prohibits smoking in public conveyances, theaters, assembly halls, hospital rooms and corridors, government offices and classrooms.

Vergara also then directed the city administrator's office to take the lead in the implementation of the ordinance by designating smoking areas at City Hall and urged employees to comply with the provisions of the law.

The campaign was fortified with the adoption of Ordinance No. 8 series of 2008 or the Comprehensive Anti-Smoking Ordinance of Baguio City and its Implementing Rules and Regulations which prohibits smoking in public utility vehicles, government-owned vehicles or other means of public transport, accommodation and entertainment establishments, public buildings, public places, enclosed public places or any enclosed area outside one's private resident or private place of work except in duly-designated smoking rooms.

Last year, the ordinance was amended to make it compliant with the FCTC with the present Ordinance No. 34 series of 2017 or Smoke-Free Baguio ordinance. – Aileen P. Refuerzo

 
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STATEMENT IN REPLY TO THE PUBLISHED OPEN LETTER OF BCDA PRESIDENT and CEO ARNEL PACIANO D. CASANOVA

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