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President's Message
Ma. Victoria C. Españo Message from the President:

Ma. Victoria C. Españo


PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE

Year 2018 is indeed a special year for FINEX: it marks our 50th anniversary as a leading organization of finance professionals. Through the able leadership of our past presidents and the multitude of members who have actively participated in and supported our different initiatives, we have made significant achievements in supporting the professional development of finance executives,

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Overstepping authority
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J. Albert GamboaBy J. Albert Gamboa

MANILA BULLETIN(Business Option)
September 19, 2017

Overstepping authority

Business Option is a rotating column of members of the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines appearing every Tuesday & Thursday in Manila Bulletin, business section.

Business owners in major Philippine cities are in a quandary about the way their local government units (LGUs) are implementing President Rodrigo R. Duterte's Executive Order 26 that regulates smoking in enclosed public places and conveyances.

Two of the most affected areas are the cities of Makati and Taguig, where the biggest concentration of retail and hospitality establishments in the country can be found. Hundreds of entrepreneurs have petitioned Makati City Mayor Abigail Binay and Taguig City Mayor Lani Cayetano to stop local authorities from imposing a harsh interpretation of EO 26.

Among those seeking help from their LGU officials are bar and restaurant owners whose businesses provide venues for consumers of legal age to drink and smoke. These establishments do not allow minors as customers and strictly restrict their premises to adults only. Even before EO 26 was issued, they already complied with provisions of Republic Act 9211 – the prevailing national law on tobacco regulation passed in 2003.

Many of these complainants operate in Bonifacio Global City (BGC), which was developed at the turn of the millennium by Fort Bonifacio Development Corporation (FBDC), a joint venture between a private consortium led by Ayala Land Inc. and Greenfield Development Corp. in partnership with the national government's Bases Conversion and Development Authority.

These Taguig-based entrepreneurs understand that EO 26 has not rendered smoking illegal but instead provides for the setting up of designated smoking areas (DSAs) in each store or club. Their customers are fully aware that should they enter these establishments, they would encounter people who are drinking or smoking. If they're not comfortable mingling with smokers, they reserve the option to go elsewhere.

However, they were informed at a town hall meeting organized by FBDC last month that smoking is banned in all open public spaces such as parking lots and sidewalks. They were also told that food and drinks may not be served inside the DSAs, although such a prohibition is not stated in both RA 9211 and EO 26.

In reality, majority of small establishments do not have enough physical space and resources to set up DSAs under the stringent standards that are operationally too difficult to follow. Upon practical application, it seems that these DSA requirements are too onerous and were crafted in such a way that only the large establishments could comply with them. This is confiscatory in nature and creates a de facto ban that was not the original intent of E0 26.

From my experience, the implementation of EO 26 has not been consistent. Take for example BGC, where the regulation is being enforced more harshly at Uptown Bonifacio than at the Forbestown Center despite the fact that Megaworld Corp. owns both estates.

On the other hand, sari-sari store owners in three Makati barangays are complaining that their patrons are being fined P500 to P1,000 when caught smoking at open sidewalks. This has driven away some clients, thereby reducing their sales revenue by at least 20%

Barangay officials in Taguig are likewise going beyond regulation in enforcing EO 26, to the extent of forcibly removing store signage donated by tobacco manufacturers that contain their brand names or logos. Owners of sari-sari stores have also been warned against selling cigarettes and allowing people to smoke in the vicinity.

Store owners in these two progressive cities emphasized that they do not oppose smoking regulations. As entrepreneurs, they have to look after the interests of their customers – smokers and non-smokers alike. All they ask is that the measures to regulate smoking must be practical, reasonable, and responsive to the nature of their businesses.

How then could overzealous and overeager LGU officials have the gall to deprive ordinary citizens of the right to earn a decent living? Why are retailers and bar owners being legislated out of business? Can local ordinances supersede national laws?

J. Albert Gamboa is chief financial officer of Asian Center for Legal Excellence and Senior Advisor of KSearch Asia Consulting, Inc. and co-chairs for FINEX Media Affairs Committee. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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