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Outside her expertise

Why on earth would a public official, whose office has nothing to do with health whatsoever, head a Philippine delegation to an international conference that deals with public health issues?

The Philippines is one of the 180 parties to a treaty called the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). So it was only proper that the country send an official delegation to attend the Seventh session of the Conference of the Parties (COP7) to the WHO FCTC which was held in Delhi, India from Nov. 7-12.

The COP is the governing body of the WHO FCTC and is comprised of all parties to the Convention. It regularly reviews the implementation of the Convention and makes the decisions necessary to promote its effective implementation.

And who was the head of the Philippine delegation? No less than Civil Service Commission (CSC) chair Alicia dela Rosa-Bala.

She may have extensive experience in social work, having been undersecretary of the Social Welfare and Development department and took social work studies both as undergraduate and graduate degrees, but to support an outright ban on electronic cigarettes or vape devices in the Philippines as an official country position?

Two local e-cigarette consumer groups criticized Bala for supporting a proposal presented at the COP7 that would allow an outright ban of electronic cigarettes or vape devices in the Philippines without prior consultation with the local vaping community.

Vapers Philippines spokesperson Mark Erana said that according to fellow vapers in Europe, Bala as head of the Philippine delegation supported a proposal that would allow an outright ban of e-cigarettes without consulting the Philippine vaping community.

For his part, PRO Vape secretary general Alan Marciano revealed the CSC has received a P14 million grant supposedly to protect the bureaucracy from tobacco industry interference and said the public wants to know what is the real purpose of the grant and how they are using it.

Sad to say, but Bala does not seem to have the expertise to decide whether or not WHO’s proposal to strictly regulate or even ban outright e-cigarettes is proper or not.

We are not saying WHO is correct or not, nor that the different studies which say that e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful have basis or none.

Last July, Public Health England and 12 other UK public health organizations including the Royal College of Physicians, the leading professional membership body for physicians in the UK and internationally, issued a joint statement stating that “all the evidence suggests that the health risks posed by e-cigarettes are relatively small.”

We just want Bala to do her job and the taxpayers are paying her to take care of the civil service and civil servants, nothing else.

Fireworks smuggling

Legitimate fireworks manufacturers have asked authorities to closely monitor the organizers, contestants, participants, of an upcoming fireworks festival as well as all shipments of fireworks and related materials in connection with the said event.

They have received highly reliable information that while normally, one container of fireworks is enough for the whole competition (the annual Philippine International fireworks festival held every January at the Mall of Asia Complex), around 20 containers are being imported for this competition.

They emphasized that the excess of 19 containers is competing with domestic companies and that under Republic Act no. 7183 or the Fireworks Law, importation of finished fireworks is strictly prohibited without exceptions.

The local manufacturers stressed the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) should find out why such huge volumes of fireworks are being allowed to be imported since they constitute unfair trade practice.

Workers in the legitimate fireworks industry have also warned that smuggled and excessively powerful firecrackers not only hurt local, licensed manufacturers but also pose grave, clear, present, and verifiable danger to the consuming public.

Piccolo causes the biggest number of firecracker-related injuries (57 percent) in the country, despite the fact they are not manufactured locally, which can only mean they are smuggled.

On the other hand, locally manufactured fireworks have yielded zero or minimal injuries, mainly due to strict adherence to product standards.

Workers in the legitimate firework industry are pinning their hopes on the issuance by President Duterte of an executive order that would clamp down on smuggling of dangerous firecrackers.

Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial has given assurance the EO would not enforce a total ban on individual and residential use of pyrotechnics, but would tighten existing regulations to protect the general public.

Zuma The Origin

Jim Fernandez, who created the Filipino comic book character Zuma in the mid ‘70s, has finally released the never-before-told origin story of the green demi-god and his two headed snakes.

As told in the comics, Zuma was unearthed from the ruins of an Aztec pyramid and then goes on a rampage by preying upon virgin women – slicing open their chests, ripping their hearts, and sacrificing it to his god. There had been two Zuma movies to date and tv adaptations (Anak ni Zuma and Kambal sa Uma)

His new book, Zuma The Origin, basically shatters the prevailing perception of Zuma being a villain. At the core of Fernandez’ non-human creatures and stories are human emotions and the beauty of human life.

Zuma The Origin is now available at Jim Fernandez’s Facebook page, Filbar’s, Pandayan, and BAGA Manila branches. Visit for more details.

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