Duterte 'measuring resistance' to smoking ban EO

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte is "measuring resistance" to his upcoming smoking ban executive order (EO), given a controversial provision that prohibits smoking inside buildings.

"I'm measuring the resistance. So whether I can compromise. Like, for example, smoking areas inside buildings," Duterte told reporters on Tuesday, March 7, during a chance interview at the Palace.

The previous night, Duterte had said during a Cabinet meeting that he would sign the EO on Tuesday.

On Tuesday morning, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte was set to sign the EO that day "as soon as he comes to office."

The contentious provision is one that prohibits smoking even inside designated areas inside buildings.

Duterte told Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial that he wanted the EO to "follow the Davao model," said Abella. The Davao ordinance on smoking prohibits smoking areas inside buildings.

Smoking areas may only be constructed outdoors and "should have no temporary or permanent roof or walls."

Duterte, in the chance interview, said indoor smoking areas were not adopted in the Davao smoking ban "because ganoon din, papasok (it's the same thing, the smoke is inside)."

"But there are a lot of dynamics there. So just give me enough time to study," he added.

This softening of stance is far different from his thoughts on indoor smoking areas back in October 2016, when news of the smoking ban EO draft was first reported.

Back in October, Duterte was very much against allowing indoor smoking areas.

"It must be out[side]. It must not be in an enclosed cubicle inside the building. That is not good enough," said Duterte back then. 

'Very careful'

Asked when he plans to sign the EO, he said, "I am supposed to sign it this week, as submitted by Secretary Ubial. She wants to hurry the measure, but I said, Davao is different from all the rest of the nation."

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said he had penned a legal opinion for Duterte explaining how prohibiting indoor smoking areas goes against the Tobacco Regulation Act which allows such areas.

Any provision banning indoor smoking areas would thus make it easy for anyone to challenge the EO.

Duterte said he would be "very careful" in how he would present the EO to the public.

He would also want to hear the "pronouncements" of the health sector.

"They should be also in the forefront of this because they know the benefits of totally banning smoking inside buildings," he said. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.