ORMOC CITY – Mayor Richard Gomez, together with City Health Office representatives and the Ormoc City Police Off ice (OCPO), has stepped up his drive to make Ormoc a “Smoking Free City.”
On Thursday, May 17, the mayor personally led the “Oplan Baklas” of cigarette advertising in stores within 100-meter distance from schools and barangay halls on Thurday, May 17.
Ormoc City, under his leadership, is now a nominee for the Red Orchid Award- LGU category.
In an interview, Mayor Gomez said that he is just implementing a provision of Republic Act 9211 which says that cigarette advertising should not be allowed in areas and stores within 100 meters from school zones and where minors converge.
The prohibition also includes government buildings like barangay halls. “We did an operation Baklas to implement RA 9211 which says you cannot put any cigarette advertising within 100 meters of places frequented by minors,” he said, adding that they also took down posters and billboards fronting barangay halls.
“We are an LGU,” he added, saying “the mayor is supposed to implement the law.” He added that aside from the Operation Baklas, Ormoc City through the City Health Office has also embarked on a city-wide information campaign on the public health risks of smoking. Mayor Gomez emphasized that “people are not being stopped from smoking.
However, “as an LGU, we are the implementer of existing laws and this Republic Act is one of them,” he said. Mayor Gomez added that he wants Ormoc to be a “Smoking Free City,” because that is the law and not because he is eyeing the Red Orchid Award.
He said that early on in his term, he has already implemented the Anti-Smoking Law, even before he heard about the award. “Well, if we were nominated, that is good because the people can probably see what we have been doing. With all the requirements, I think kuha naman natin — we apprehend people if may nag smoke sa public area, then we started the baklas,” he pointed out. Ormoc City has its own anti-smoking ordinance passed in the early 90’s.
However, it was never implemented as a good number of the authors were heavy smokers themselves. The mayor that preceded Gomez was also a heavy smoker. Mayor Gomez recalls that when he first entered the mayor’s office on July 1, they found many cigarette stubs and ashtrays.
“The mayor’s office smelled like an ashtray,” he recalled. Mayor Gomez has also sent a task force composed of various city offices and the police to go on a learning tour in Maasin City, on how they implemented their Anti-Smoking Ordinance, winning them the Red Orchid Award for many years. By Lalaine M. Jimenea