“I call on everyone, especially our public health officials, local government leaders and fellow advocates to work together to achieve a truly smoke-free society for the current and future generations of Filipinos.”

In a message sent by President Rodrigo Duterte and read by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecrtary Jonathan Malaya during the 2nd Smoke-Free LGU Forum themed “Sustaining Smoke-Free Communities in the New Normal,” several local government units (LGUs) and national government agencies including the DILG, Department of Health (DOH), and the Department of Education (DepEd) committed to sustain smoke-free environments, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In his message, Health Secretary Duque reaffirmed the national government’s commitment to reduce the prevalence of smoking in the Philippines, particularly in the new normal. Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones – in a message read by Dr. Maria Corazon Dumlao during the event – confirmed the importance of sustaining smoke-free environments in schools as learners prepare to slowly go back to face-to-face sessions.

Presented during the LGU forum, a recent study by conducted by HealthJustice in partnership with the University of the Philippines National College of Public Administration and Government (UP NCPAG) revealed that allocating at least 1% of the local investment plan for health to strategic interventions can sustain smoke-free programs toward improved health outcomes at the local level – a conclusion confirmed by Mayor Jason John Joyce of Jose Abad Santos, Davao Occidental in his reaction.

“Smoke-free programs can complement the current health protocols to minimize, if not eliminate, the transmission of Covid-19 at the community level.”

Other local officials who expressed their commitment to sustain smoke-free programs include Mayor Maria Ofelia Alcantara of Tolosa, Leyte; Councilor Christian Manalaysay of Balanga City, Bataan; Quezon City Health Department OIC Dr. Esperanza Anita; and Casiguran, Sorsogon Municipal Health Officer Dr. Juan Carlos Caindec.

Held in Quezon City, The forum was organized by the DILG in partnership with the DOH, DepEd, and HealthJustice Philippines. — Ralph Emerson Degollacion, Project Manager, HealthJustice, and Ma. Aurora O. Quilala, Advocacy and Partnerships Manager Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD).