ANTI-SMOKING POLICY

The “No Smoking in Public Places Policy” implemented by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) can honestly be considered as very beneficial for the public and for the environment. MMDA wants to promote a smoke-free environment where everyone is protected from the hazards of secondhand smoke in all enclosed workplaces and public areas, including restaurants, bars and other hospitality venues. This is because second-hand smoking can have the same harmful effects as smoking the cigarette yourself. In particular it can lead to hazardous complications for pregnant women, infants and children, causing disease and illness. I’m certain we wouldn’t want our country to be full of sick people in the future, or even worse the smokers had all died, and killed all the non-smokers with them through second-hand smoke.

It can be quite depressing learning the dangerous implications of smoking, particularly as I smoke occasionally too. Sometimes when I’m depressed about the consequences of smoking, I tend to smoke less, but might still have one or two. Nevertheless, even as a smoker I agree with the new laws, and it’s good to know that there are still sensible policies being implemented in Manila.

MALATE POLICE DISTRICT

Many people are very happy about the new policy, especially the Malate police officers. In fact, the Malate Police District threw a big party for it. Collecting the money from innocent customers in the bars in Malate. It’s TRUE!

These police officers are extorting money from whomever they may see on the street smoking a cigarette, especially at nighttime. It’s very annoying because when you try to defend yourself, they will reply “Sa presinto ka na magpaliwanag” (You can explain in the police precinct instead), and push you on their nasty rusty police van, and take you to precinct 5. After you arrive, a police officer will ask you for your valuable items such as your wallet and mobile phone, for them to keep safe for you (of course!). Then, they will lock you up. No explanation. You won’t see the arresting officers again; they are off trying to get more victims for their breakfast later, or maybe a good meal for their family for the whole week.

This gives the police extortionists yet another way of making more money again! According to the MMDA No Smoking in Public Places website, the Metropolitan Police Department do not have the right to apprehend anybody for smoking because they are not an implementing partner of MMDA’s anti-smoking policy. Otherwise they should issue a ticket to the offender – if they were supplied with tickets, which they are not. But even though they have no authority to arrest anyone for smoking, they still do! They even lock them up! This is absolutely wrong.

MY TOURIST FRIENDS

It happened to my tourist friends in Malate. They told me, they were locked up in a disgusting, filthy smelling cell with around another 30 people. It was 20 square meters with no benches but an open urinal and toilet. After nearly an hour sitting on the floor, a guy – who was not wearing a police uniform, more likely called the ‘mayor’ came and talked to them between the metal bars. Mayor told them if they want to get out, they would have to pay a “bail”.

How much is the bail? Usually, it will depend on how much money you have in your wallet. On this occasion it was an exact amount of 2,000 pesos each. My friends agreed to pay as they were so appalled by the place and just wanted to go home. A few minutes after the mayor left, he returned again to open the cell and walked them to an empty room to collect the money. He then gave them their belongings, and told them to sign their names to the logbook on their way out. Minutes later they were hailing a cab back to their hotel. What an experience for them! I’m sure they will remember their trip to Manila for a very long time.

THE MMDA DO NOTHING

It still happens in Malate. The MMDA should do something about this. These policemen love weekends because there is so much easy prey for them outside the bars, and on the street. It’s another working night for them. But it seems like the MMDA officers do not see or ignore this kind of police’s late-night jobs!

WHEN IT WAS IMPLEMENTED?

The “No Smoking in Public Places” was made effective last 1 July 2011. Prior to apprehending violators with fine, deputized MMDA Environment Enforcers had a month-long (1-30 June 2011) campaign of providing information through warnings given to smokers caught smoking in public in Metro Manila.

WHO ARE THE IMPLEMENTING PARTNERS OF MMDA?

The implementing partners of MMDA are the 17 Local Government Units (LGU), Department of Health (DOH), Health Justice, UP-College of Law, Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).

WHAT IS A PUBLIC PLACE?

A public place is an enclosed or confined areas of all hospitals, medical clinics, schools, public transportation terminals and offices, and buildings such as private and public offices, recreational places, shopping malls, movie houses, hotels restaurants and the like.

1. Buildings and grounds of government agencies providing health, education and/or social welfare and development services such as hospitals, health centers, schools and universities, colleges
2. Centers of youth activity such as schools
3. Youth hostels and recreational facilities for person under 18
4. Elevators and stairwells
5. Locations in which fire hazards are present, including gas stations and storage areas for flammable liquids, gas, explosives or combustible materials and within the buildings
6. Premises of public and private hospitals, medical, dental and optical clinics, health centers, nursing homes, dispensaries and laboratories
7. Public conveyances and public facilities including airport and ship terminals and train and bus stations, restaurants and conference halls, except for separate smoking areas
8. All Public Utility Vehicles, and public land transportation terminals
9. Owners/proprietors/administrators of such areas are required to designate smoking/non-smoking areas: all enclosed spaces open to the general public; private workplaces; and other places where non-smokers may be exposed to tobacco smoke

HOW MUCH IS THE PENALTY FOR VIOLATING THE NO SMOKING POLICY?

First offense: Php 500 - Php 1,000; or 8-hour community service
Second offense: Php 1,000 - Php 5,000; or 16-hour community service
Third offense: Php 5,000 - Php 10,000 and cancellation/revocation of franchise or business permit

WHAT IS THE PROCEDURE FOR PAYMENT OF ADMINISTRATIVE FINES?

Upon apprehension, a violator will be given an option to either pay the fine, or to render community service. For payment of fines or rendering of Community Service, the following procedures should be observed:

Option 1 (Payment at Metrobank) 

1. Just go to the nearest branch of Metrobank and fill-up the payment form (entity number, name, and amount of violation), not more than 7 days after the occurrence of the apprehension.
2. After the payment, make sure to keep the Official Receipt for possible future references

Option 2 (Payment at MMDA Office) 

1. Report to MMDA HPSEPO for Order of Payment of the charged Administrative Fine according to the nature of offense committee
2. Go to the MMDA Treasury Operations Service for the payment of fine
3. Submit the initial receipt to HPSEPO for clearance and documentation

Option 3 (Community Service) 

1. Report to MMDA HPSEPO for proper orientation on the Environmental Regulations 
2. Schedules and Instruction
3. Render Community Service
4. Go to HPSEPO for clearance and issuance of Certificate of Compliance

If you want to read further, please click here and it will take you to the MMDA official website.

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