Davao Mayor Sara Duterte, WHO Representative for the Philippines Dr. Gundo Aurel Weiler, Department of Health Undersecretary  Dr. Rolando Enrique Domingo and two others during the Local Government Units' Summit on Red Orchid Awards for 100% Tobacco Free Environament Hall of Famers
Press Release/10 September 2018  
Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, in a rare gathering of local chief executives who are champions in the anti-smoking campaign of the Office of the President and the Department of Health, expressed support for the immediate passage of the bill on Universal Health Care and the bill that will increase tobacco taxes.
According to Inday Sara, “It is always our responsibility as public servants to ensure that the people are able to live in a clean and livable environment. We should continue in our commitment to give our constituents a smoke-free environment.”
The summit for local government units held in Davao City, the cradle of smoke-free campaign in the Philippines, was attended by the Red Orchid Awards for 100% Tobacco Free Environment Hall of Famers. This means the LGUs were awarded three times for implementing the ordinances compliant with the obligations under the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
The local chief executives who represented the 18 regions of the Philippines unanimously signed a declaration of unity in support of the adoption, implementation, and enforcement of life-saving measures such as smoke-free policies, higher tobacco taxes and a legal framework for responsive Universal Health Care system that will benefit Filipinos from all walks of life.
Undersecretary of Health and Chief of Staff Dr. Rolando Enrique Domingo expressed appreciation of the accomplishments of the local government units in the field of tobacco control. “This summit is indeed a venue for celebrating the accomplishments and giving each other a pat in the back for jobs well done. However, we should not be complacent and continue to be vigilant of tobacco industry tactics. We continuously learn from each other and share good practices with others. I challenge the local chief executives to coach and mentor other LGUs so they would also be equipped on how to defeat the tobacco industry.” 
President Rodrigo Roa-Duterte, through Undersecretary Wendel Eliot Avisado, sent two simple yet very solid messages: “No to Smoking,” and “No Deal with the Tobacco Industry.” According to the President, “Our government puts premium on the right of every Filipino to clean and healthful environment. I am committed to take all the necessary steps to safeguard and guarantee this right. With support of LGUs who are at the forefront of the implementation of this regulation, I am confident that our efforts will not be wasted. Through the inspirations of the Hall of Famers of the DOH Red Orchid Awards, we can encourage more LGUs to implement their respective anti-smoking campaigns and become champions of clean and smoke-free environment.”
President Duterte welcomed the contribution of the local chief executives, through the declaration of unity, to call on congress to swiftly pass the Universal Health Care bill, which was certified as urgent and priority measure. “With one solid and louder voice, we hope that our lawmakers will heed not only to pressure, but also to the pressing needs of our fellow Filipinos who have to go to several offices, line up even in the wee hours of the morning and submit multitudes of requirements in order to help them pay for their medical expenses.”  
Dr. Gundo Weiler, WHO Representative in the Philippines, said that the tobacco taxation measures enacted since 2012 were among the package of crucial catalysts which led to a significant decrease in tobacco use and notable drop in second-hand smoke exposure among adult Filipinos. Dr. Weiler said, “In 2015 we have seen a drop in tobacco use prevalence in the Philippines, from 30% in 2009 to 24% in 2015. That shows we have made progress in addressing the tobacco epidemic in the Philippines.
The notable reduction in tobacco use among adult Filipinos is strongly expected to result in a marked reduction in tobacco-related non-communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, and cancers. The WHO Representative said that the Philippines has achieved one of the most pronounced decreases in prevalence of tobacco use among countries in the world over the last several years.
“While this is truly a great achievement, we need to redouble our efforts and intensify the interventions that have been proven to be effective. WHO will continue to support effort by the local government units to reduce the morbidity and mortality among Filipinos linked to tobacco use.,” Dr. Weiler said.
Undersecretary Domingo highlighted the steadfast commitment of the local chief executives in the overall collective advocacy and campaign to reduce the negative impact of tobacco on the health of Filipinos. Dr. Domingo said, “We need your endless support in realizing the dream of a healthier, smoke-free Philippines. With these bills, Filipinos can have the best of both worlds: decent healthcare and protection from the harms of tobacco use. We ask you to urge your representatives in the House and the Senate to specially support higher tobacco taxes for greater health.”
Refer to:
Dr. Florante Trinidad, WHO Philippines; Tel No 5289774; Email address: [email protected]
Photo credit: F. Tanggol