[PHOTO AT LEFT: CHAIN-SMOKING PRESIDENT ..left hand circled in white]

MANILA , JUNE 4, 2010 (STAR) By Michael Punongbayan  President-apparent Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III cannot smoke while on board government vehicles, including the “First Car,” which will be for his exclusive use when he assumes the presidency on June 30.

According to the rules set by the Civil Service Commission (CSC), civil servants are barred from smoking in government vehicles as well as government buildings.

Memorandum Circular No. 17 Series of 2009 stipulates an absolute smoking ban in all government premises except in designated smoking areas.

Government vehicles are covered by the policy, which means that the Mercedes-Benz W221 S-Class, the BMW E38 750iL, and the Chevrolet Suburvan that Aquino will be using are smoke-free.

The CSC, without mentioning Aquino, yesterday called on all civil servants “to adopt a healthy lifestyle, starting with avoidance of tobacco smoke.”

In a memorandum circular issued in light of the World No Tobacco Day celebration, CSC chairman Francisco Duque III urged government agencies to “observe a 100 percent smoke-free workplace at all times.”

The CSC also encouraged government offices to actively participate in and organize week-long activities for World No Tobacco Day starting May 31, 2010.

The theme set by the World Health Organization (WHO) for this year’s World No Tobacco Day, “Gender and Tobacco, with an Emphasis on Marketing to Women,” aims to draw attention to the sex-specific effects of tobacco use, thus the need for gender-specific tobacco control strategies.

“A healthy body is imperative for government workers to deliver the highest quality of service to the public,” Duque stressed at a briefing for CSC employees on the harmful effects of tobacco use.

Various groups, including the Department of Health, have been urging Aquino to quit smoking in order to become a role model for millions of Filipinos who are addicted to cigarettes.

Some have even raised concerns over how the Presidential Security Group will provide him security when he steps outside to smoke.

Earlier, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines had asked the president-apparent to be the poster boy of the government’s anti-smoking advocacies.

The call had snowballed but Aquino has not been swayed, claiming that he was elected president despite his being a smoker. He has also said that he would no longer debate on the issue, believing that there are more important matters to talk about.

Smoking is a personal choice

As far as WHO country representative Dr. Soe Nyunt-u is concerned, smoking is Aquino’s “personal choice,” but he should push for higher taxes for cigarettes if he cannot kick the habit.

“As health authorities, we would advise him to quit. But it is his personal choice and we just hope that he would support an increase in tax for tobacco. The important thing is not for adult smokers but for the children not to pick up cigarette smoking,” Soe noted in an interview.   

He said the Philippines is one of the countries with very low excise tax on tobacco.   

“If the government can increase tobacco taxation, the resources they will generate will be sufficient to invest in achieving the Medium-term Development Goal targets,” Soe added. The WHO, he claimed, is eyeing a “simplified tax system” for the Philippines “where all cigarettes will be imposed around P50 tax per package.”   

“It must be increasing every year by P5 so that down the line over six years, we get an excise tax of around P50 per cigarette pack,” Soe added.

At present, a tax of P2.47 is being implemented for a pack of low-end cigarette brands, and P27.16 for high-end brands.

Aside from higher taxes for tobacco, health experts also considered graphic or picture-based warning signs on cigarette packs and barring retail sale of cigarettes among the best means to minimize smoking. – With Sheila Crisostomo

DOH: Noynoy’s smoking may pose security woes 05/25/2010 GMANEWS-TV

In more ways than one, smoking may be dangerous to the health of president-apparent Sen. Benigno Simeon “Noynoy" Aquino III, even as his habit might also cause security problems once he becomes Malacañang’s main tenant.

Quoting an anti-smoking advocate, Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral on Tuesday said it may be difficult to secure the incoming president if he is outdoors, puffing cigarettes away.

"Kaya sabi ng isang anti-smoking advocate maawa siya sa PSG, mahirap siyang i-secure kung lalabas siya 10 meters away from the building sa Malacañang (An anti-smoking advocate had commented Aquino should take pity on the Presidential Security Group. It will be hard to secure him if he decides to smoke 10 meters away from a government building such as Malacañang)," Cabral said in an interview on dwIZ radio.

Cabral said Philippine laws may restrict Aquino to puffing away in a restricted room, or 10 meters away from any government building, including Malacañang.

Under Republic Act 9211 and the Civil Service Commission, smoking may constitute a violation of office rules and procedures.

Aquino, a known smoker, had said he is not keen on being a poster boy for anti-smoking advocates, at least at this time.

He said kicking the habit may cause more stress that may affect his decisions.

CSC rule on smoking

Under Civil Service Commission (CSC) Memorandum Circular 17 signed by then chairman Ricardo Saludo on May 29, 2009, “smoking shall be absolutely prohibited in or on the premises, buildings and grounds of government agencies providing health, education and/or social welfare and development."

The circular prohibits smoking in areas anywhere in or on the government premises, buildings and grounds, except for open spaces designated as “smoking areas."

It defines a smoking area as located in an open space, and should not be located within 10 meters of entrances, exits or where people congregate.

Also, the smoking area cannot be larger than 10 square meters. Government buildings should not have more than one designated smoking area.

Smoking shall be prohibited in government vehicles.

Building administrators in government areas are to ensure strict compliance with the requirements of the smoking area.

Any violation shall be ground for disciplinary action, the CSC circular said.

RA 9211

Under Republic Act 9211, smoking shall be absolutely prohibited in the following public places:

* Centers of youth activity such as playschools, preparatory schools, elementary schools, high schools, colleges and universities, youth hostels and recreational facilities for persons under 18 years old;

* Elevators and stairwells;

* Locations in which fire hazards are present, including gas stations and storage areas for flammable liquids, gas, explosives or combustible materials;

* Within the buildings and premises of public and private hospitals, medical, dental, and optical clinics, health centers, nursing homes, dispensaries and laboratories;

* Public conveyances and public facilities including airport and ship terminals and train and bus stations, restaurants and conference halls, except for separate smoking areas; and * Food preparation areas.— LBG/RSJ, GMANews.TV

Noynoy starts text campaign for Belmonte By Teddy Molina (The Philippine Star) Updated June 03, 2010 12:00 AM

LAOAG CITY, Philippines – President-apparent Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino Jr. has started his campaign to boost the speakership bid of newly elected Quezon City Rep. Feliciano Belmonte through text messages sent to congressmen including Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas.

Farinas, the congressman-elect for the first district of Ilocos Norte, disclosed that Aquino had sent him a text message asking him to support Belmonte’s candidacy for Speaker of the House of Representatives.

“Of course I will support Rep. Belmonte,” Fariñas told newsmen yesterday.

Aquino and Belmonte are both members of the Liberal Party (LP).

Fariñas said he replied to Aquino’s text message to assure him of his vote for Belmonte in the race for speakership. He said that he and Belmonte are good friends.

Fariñas won by a wide margin over his opponents led by Kris Ablan, son of outgoing Ilocos Norte Rep. Roque Ablan Jr., in the May elections.

Fariñas won along with former first lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos who was elected second district representative and her daughter Imee who beat her cousin incumbent Gov. Michael Keon in the gubernatorial race in Ilocos Norte.

Fariñas and the Marcoses ran under the “One Ilocos Norte” ticket, which bagged most of the contested posts in the polls.

Some LP leaders have admitted that the party still lacks the numbers to ensure victory for Belmonte, but the former Quezon City mayor has expressed optimism that congressmen from other political parties will support his bid.

Sources said that aside from the 46 incoming LP congressmen, 23 congressmen-elect from the Nacionalista Party, 30 from the Nationalist People’s Coalition, and 10 incoming independent congressmen would support Belmonte’s bid.

Belmonte was a ranking Lakas-Kampi-CMD official before he joined the LP to support the presidential campaign of Aquino.

Congressmen traditionally forge alliances with the political party of the sitting president.

Lakas-Kampi had originally planned to field President Arroyo who won the congressional race in the second district of Pampanga, but the outgoing chief executive had hinted that she was not interested in the speakership.

Leaders of Lakas-Kampi are now considering fielding Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay against Belmonte for the speakership.

Another possible Lakas-Kampi candidate for Speaker is Rep. Danilo Suarez of Quezon.

Outgoing Pangasinan Rep. Jose de Venecia Jr. said earlier that 24 incoming representatives from Northern Luzon, including Fariñas, have expressed their support for Belmonte’s speakership bid.

De Venecia said that he, as chairman emeritus of the alliance, outgoing Ilocos Sur congressman and Deputy Speaker Eric Singson, as president emeritus; La Union Rep. Victor Ortega, as president; and Quirino Rep. Junie Cua “have been mobilizing the forces of the north for Sonny Belmonte.”

“I think Sonny Belmonte will make an outstanding Speaker of the House of Representatives,” De Venecia told reporters.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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