9 April 2019: Launch of the Dambana ng Kagitingan (Shrine of Valor) Smoke-free Marker. Present during the launch were Philippine Vice-President VP Leni Robredo, Department of the Interior and Local Government DILG Philippines Secretary Eduardo Año, Second District of Bataan Representative Joet Garcia, First District of Bataan Representative Geraldine Roman, SEATCA Smoke-free Program Manager Dr. Domilyn Villarreiz, Municipality of Pilar Mayor Alice Pizarro and other local chief executives of Bataan. Photo Credit: Office of the Second District of Bataan
Bangkok, 12 April 2019: At this year’s commemoration of the Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) to mark the Fall of Bataan in 1942 and the bravery of Filipino and American soldiers during World War II, a marker declaring Mt. Samat National Shrine as a Shrine of Smoke-free Philippines was also launched to remember those who died prematurely from tobacco-caused diseases.
This declaration of the Dambana ng Kagitingan or Shrine of Valor as the Shrine of Smoke-free Philippines was welcomed by the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) and the Smoke-free Cities Asia Pacific Network (SCAN).
The Administrator of Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) Undersecretary Ernesto Carolina received the marker from Second District of Bataan Representative Jose Enrique “Joet” Garcia III and Pilar Mayor Alice Pizzaro. Gracing the occasion were Philippine Vice-President Leonor Robredo, First District of Bataan Representative Geraldine Roman, other local chief executives of Bataan, and SEATCA Smoke-free Program Manager and SCAN Secretary General Dr. Domilyn Villareiz.
“We congratulate the local government and residents of Pilar, Bataan. Mt. Samat stands as a beacon of heroism and gallantry for national liberation. Knowing that there are more than 16 million smokers in the Philippines and close to 150,000 succumb annually to preventable tobacco-related diseases, this tobacco-free national historical shrine in the Philippines symbolizes renewed commitment to be free from the scourge of tobacco,” said Villarreiz. “The battle to fully liberate our nation from the harms of tobacco continues,” she added.
With support from SEATCA, SCAN and the World Health Organization in the Western Pacific Region (WHO WPRO), the Municipality of Pilar, Bataan, with the leadership of Mayor Pizzaro, initiated the project to make Mt. Samat a Shrine of Smoke-free Philippines. This project was an outcome of the 6th Regional Meeting of Smoke-free Cities in the Asia Pacific Region held in Hoi An, Viet Nam in November 2018 participated in by Mayor Pizzaro.
This project also aims to promote local tourism through smoke-free environments and was supported by the Office of Congressman Garcia, the PVAO, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NCHP), Mt. Samat Flagship Tourism Enterprise Zone (FTEZ), and the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA).
According to the Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT), an average of 140,000 foreign and local tourists visit Mt. Samat National Shrine yearly. Multiple studies show that tourists prefer to travel to places with healthy and safe environments, and making a tourist spot 100% tobacco-free is a sure way to make it healthy for everyone. A non-smoking environment also aids in preserving old monuments and buildings and prevents littering the environment with cigarette butts.
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SEATCA is a multi-sectoral non-governmental alliance promoting health and saving lives by assisting ASEAN countries to accelerate and effectively implement the evidence-based tobacco control measures contained in the WHO FCTC. Acknowledged by governments, academic institutions, and civil society for its advancement of tobacco control movements in Southeast Asia, the WHO bestowed on SEATCA the World No Tobacco Day Award in 2004 and the WHO Director-General’s Special Recognition Award in 2014.