Ms. Bungon Rithiphakdee, Director of the Bangkok-based Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA), said Balanga hosted the 2nd Smoke-Free Cities ASEAN Regional Workshop. SEATCA organized the “Workshop on Best Practice Benchmarking of Smoke-free Policies and Strengthening Mechanisms of Enforcement.”
Participating were public health officers, local government officials and other stakeholders from the seven ASEAN countries, namely; Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia and the Philippines. All seven are country partners in SEATCA. Brunei Darussalam, Vietnam and Singapore, also members of ASEAN and SEATCA country partners, failed to send delegates.
“ASEAN delegates are here to learn from smoke-free City of Balanga because it has good programs and has many achievements in its campaign to attain 100 percent smoke-free environment,” Rithiphakdee said. She said that these are lessons that cities from other countries can bring home to have smoke-free environment. The Thai director said many cities in the Philippines have done a very good job and have systems in place to make their areas smoke-free.
The first SEATCA regional workshop was held last year in Davao City which has inspired other cities to establish their own smoke-free programs. Davao City has been hailed as a model and pioneer in terms of implementation and enforcement of its anti-smoking ordinance.
Rithiphakdee said many cities in the Philippines like Balanga City followed the anti-smoking drive of Davao City. The Department of Health has elevated Davao City and Balanga City and some other Philippine cities in the Hall of Fame after receiving the DoH Red Orchid Awards for three consecutive years.
The cities of Maasin in Leyte, Amlan in Negros Occidental, among other cities in the Philippines followed suit, and so with Krabi, Thailand; Yangoon, Myanmar; Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Luang Prabang, Lao PDR; Pekalongan, Indonesia and Penang, Malaysia that have been declared smoke-free.
Rithiphakdee added that in many ASEAN countries, smoking is also banned but the challenge faced was about enforcement. “We will learn from Balanga how they enforce it,” she said. “If a small city like Balanga and a big city like Davao can do it, why can’t other cities do it?” she asked.