Palace: Noy not ready to quit smoking

Aurea Calica - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang said yesterday that President Aquino is not ready to quit smoking, in reply to Philippine Medical Association (PMA) vice president Leo Olarte’s advice to the Chief Executive to be in tip-top shape at all times.

Aside from quitting smoking, Olarte said Aquino should also try his best to exercise daily, have a balanced diet, drink moderately “in case he drinks” and sleep at least eight hours a day, “if there is an opportunity.”

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said over radio dzRB that Aquino had addressed media queries about his smoking and calls for him to kick the habit, “but his answers were not at this time.”

He said smoking is the President’s way to de-stress. “At a certain point, he would like to quit but right now, this is what de-stresses him. So let us allow the President to find a way. He knows what is important.”

Lacierda added that Aquino had been coughing because of his recent bout with allergies to pollen when he went to New Zealand and Australia. He also had flu when he went to Mindoro and Tagaytay before flying to Cambodia for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit.

“So that’s part of it. But, thank you so much to the Philippine Medical Association for the concern. They will be taken under consideration. Unfortunately, because of the demands of the office, he has to be (up late). Sometimes we can still text him at two in the morning and he replies if the information he needs to know is important. We have to give (it to) him and he responds,” he said.

Lacierda said Health Secretary Enrique Ona had also been telling the President to rest but he could not because there were too many things to attend to.

“He is already fortunate to have at least six hours (of sleep). But the doctors have recommended that he take a two-day rest. Hopefully this weekend he can rest for two days so he can recover from his ailment,” he said, adding that the President could not afford to miss the ASEAN summit because it was an opportunity to raise the country’s position.

He said Aquino’s participation was productive because he was able to correct Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s impression, as ASEAN chairman, that there was a consensus not to internationalize the West Philippine Sea dispute.

In his recent visit to Cambodia, President Aquino developed nasal airways inflammation while he experienced a bum stomach when he went to Australia and New Zealand weeks ago.

The President also had to cancel a meeting with International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde last week because of cough, colds and flu.

PMA: We’re not imposing

Meanwhile, PMA director for Media Affairs Dr. Mike Aragon said they would like to help but would not impose on the President, as it is “the rights of patients to choose their doctors or to decide for themselves.”

“As doctors, it is our duty to inform the patients or to properly guide them on what is proper and beneficial for their health. The final decision would still be with them,” he said.

Aragon clarified that despite his smoking, Aquino has been supportive of various health programs, including the expansion of the universal health care and the passage of the sin tax reform bill for tobacco and alcohol products.

“Under the Aquino administration, our budget for health had even increased significantly. He may be a smoker but he never endorsed smoking and he never neglected the people’s health. And for that the PMA is very thankful to him,” he added.  – With Sheila Crisostomo

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