Philippines: Civil society groups urge smoking ban in beaches

28 October 2018:
By Ma. Teresa Montemayor
Source: Philippines News Agency

MANILA — As Boracay reopens for tourism, civil society groups have called on the government to strictly enforce the smoking ban in all Philippine beaches.

Tobacco control advocacy group Health Justice Philippines, Inc. lauded over the weekend earlier the pronouncement of Tourism Secretary Bernadette Puyat that she had coordinated with Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu and Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año on the smoking ban in Boracay’s beachfront and other public areas.

“The smoking ban is consistent with the directive of the President, who is a tobacco control advocate himself, to develop more stringent measures in promoting a smoke-free environment,” Mary Ann Mendoza, president of Health Justice Philippines, Inc. said.

Millennials Philippines (MPH), a youth advocacy group, noted that the smoking ban in public places, especially at the white beach, will offer the best protection to the youths, who will be visiting Boracay.

“We appreciate the government’s efforts to give us young people a cleaner and smoke-free Boracay to hang out, relax, and have fun,” MPH Executive Vice President Marjon Fenis said.

In May 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte issued Executive Order No. 26 “to minimize access, particularly of minors, to tobacco products.”

Environmental hazard

Dr. Rene Ofreneo of Climate Change Congress of the Philippines said that “apart from being a public health burden, World Health Organization (WHO) studies reveal that cigarettes also have significant environmental costs.”

“Over 10 billion cigarettes are being disposed of every day. Cleanups of coastal and urban areas show that around 30 percent of items collected are cigarette butts, which take at least 10 years to rot and five centuries to a millennium to fully decompose,” Ofreneo said.

“By implementing the smoking ban, cigarette butts should not litter the beach anymore. DENR must ensure the gains in the six-month closure of Boracay will not be reversed by the failure to strictly enforce the president’s no-smoking policy,” he added.

Mendoza, for her part, cautioned Cimatu of any attempt of the tobacco industry to establish unnecessary partnerships with the government in beach clean-up efforts.

In 2009, Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corporation (PMFTC) snagged a partnership with the DENR in launching a butt disposal campaign.

“This Corporate Social Responsibility activity is the way of the tobacco industry to gain favorable public image, to mask the fact that it is peddling a deadly product,” Mendoza said. (PNA)