MAYOR Alfredo Abelardo Benitez has issued an executive order (EO) reconvening the Bacolod City Anti-Smoking Task Force (BASTF), saying that the proliferation of non-compliant cigarette product [manufacturers] is a serious problem that deprives the government of potential revenue from excise tax collections.
Benitez, who signed the EO on September 13, 2022, said that it also triggers the “flooding” of cheaper cigarettes in the market making them more accessible to the public, especially the youth.
He said Bacolod City is aware that due to the illegal nature of these non-compliant cigarette products, they remain unregulated by the government and may pose a greater threat to consumers because of their substandard quality.
Citing City Ordinance No. 641 Series of 2013, the mayor reiterated that the EO aims to regulate smoking in all public places and conveyances and to ensure the strict enforcement of Republic Act 9211 or the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2002.
Benitez noted that another city ordinance in 2016 amended certain provisions of Citing City Ordinance No. 641 and it also enhanced the composition of the BASTF and its functions.
Under the order, the task force shall be meant to aid in the implementation, enforcement, and monitoring of this order and to protect the same from tobacco industry interference at all times, as well as to conduct education awareness campaigns, information dissemination programs, and capacity building programs that will inform the constituents and train enforcement officers.
The BASTF was convened previously and its action team was organized to enforce the ordinance but eventually halted its operation due to the emergence of the pandemic.
The BASTF will be led Benitez as the chairperson with Councilor Simplicia Distrito as vice chairperson; and Sangguniang Panlungsod Committee on Health Chairman Councilor Claudio Puentevella; City Health Office; City Administrator; City Legal Office; Public Information Office; Office of the Building Official; Permits and Licensing Division; City Treasurer’s Office; City Engineer’s Office as members.
A representative of one or move civil society organizations designated by the health officer; representative of Bacolod City Police Office; Environment and Natural Resources; Liga ng mga Barangay Sangguniang Kabataan Federation President; Schools Division Superintendent; and the Action Officer, Jonald Pamposa, will also be part of the task force.
For her part, Distrito said individuals who will be caught smoking in public places like the plaza and downtown areas will be fined P500 for the first offense while P1,000 and P2,500, for the second and third offenses, respectively.
For the business establishment owners who are allowing their customers to smoke in a non-designated smoking area will also be fined P3,000 for the first offense; P4,000 for the second offense; and P5,000 and possible closure for the third offense, she said.
Distrito said that the business establishment should put up their own designated smoking areas to avoid violations and penalties.