Mind if I smoke? Mind if I die?
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - November 4, 2016 - 12:00am

One of the catchiest anti-smoking ads ever was in Los Angeles City in the ’90s. Motorists couldn’t miss the giant outdoor billboard as they approached the major intersection. It depicted a couple conversing at home, with the man asking in a balloon, “Mind if I smoke?”, and the woman replying, “Mind if I die?” Emphasized were new findings then that second-hand smoke is as deadly as toking the cigarette.

California had won multimillion dollars in damages from tobacco makers. The money was used for health ads and to treat smoking-related ailments. The state government had other curbs to smoking. Foremost was a tax that made cigarette prices prohibitive: the equivalent of P200 a pack when it was only P15 in the Philippines. Ordinances also barred smoking inside homes and cars when minors are around, and inside workplaces and public sites, including parks.

The Philippines is catching up in discouraging lighting up. Aside from ever increasing “sin” taxes and banning cigarette promos altogether, youth are being taught to shun the vice that sickened and shortened the lives of their elders. Enforcement of the smoking prohibition in public indoors is spotty. But today begins the picturing of graphic health warnings (GHWs) on cigarette packs.

The GHWs replace the printed versions, which smokers are now habituated to ignore. Ten templates from the health department are to be splashed in rotation on the lower half of both sides of the pack. The photos of smoking’s repulsive effects on organs should turn off smokers and their clean companions.

Future health ads might feature the GHWs. The conversation balloons can go this way: “Mind if I pull out a pack?” ... “Mind if I see it and retch?”

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Her job forces environmentalist-turned-Natural Resources Sec. Gina Lopez to accept mining. So she needs to identify best practitioners of responsible extraction as industry champions. Half the 101 mine sites nationwide actually are clean. Though overshadowed by take-the-money-and-run counterparts, they make lasting contributions to their host communities. In gold, one of them is the low-key yet top yielding partnership of Filminera Resources and B2Gold in Masbate.

Eye-catching for any visitor to the gold mine in Aroroy town are ducks paddling and feeding in the tailings pond. The $44-million lagoon tells Filminera-B2Gold’s story of thoroughly cleaned wastes. Behind it are the hard figures: $250 million sunk into the open pits and a processing plant – but $100 million of that dedicated to earth care, and community health, education, welfare, and livelihood. A pity that the mine nearly was blacklisted last month, not so much for flunking the compliance audit than its policy against, er, local panhandlers.

Covering 15,000 hectares, the mine is Masbate island-province’s biggest taxpayer, employer, and developer. Filminera-B2Gold has paid P4.1 billion in excise and real estate taxes since reopening eight years ago Atlas Company’s defunct 1980s site. It directly employs 2,000 locals. Double the number have been trained to fish and farm, and in jobs ranging from bookkeeping to massage. Over a thousand students receive high school and college scholarships each year. About 2,300 hectares of hillsides have been greened with 1.6 million trees, plus 388,000 mangrove propagules in eight coastal villages – as social security for free food. Five kilometers of community roads and 2.5 kilometers of alleys have been concreted and lighted up. Eleven kilometers of water pipes have been laid down, and toilets installed in 4,300 homes; plus 150 public faucets. Health centers have been erected in all the barangays, each with pre- and post-natal, optometry, dental, and pulmonary care facilities, and a dozen multipurpose social halls. Donated to the provincial and diocesan hospitals are P35 million worth of diagnostics equipment. Most of all, Filminera-B2Gold has deposited in escrow half-a-billion pesos for nature restoration when decommissioning comes.

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It’s tough to be a government front-liner these days. President Rody Duterte is exhorting citizens to stand up to the airport Customs checker or issuer of whatever license who so much as asks for tips. Slap ‘em, cuss ‘em to attract the nearest newsmen to report, he advises; then he’ll personally fire ‘em.

That could tempt the malicious to make a scene with false accusations just to, say, get away with petty smuggling at the airport or false info for the license issuance. Worse consequences would arise.

* * *

Malacañang says Filipinos should be happy that Beijing now is allowing Filipinos to fish again around, but not inside, the Scarborough Shoal. This, after Chinese gunboats in 2012 forcibly evicted the Filipinos from traditional fishing grounds within the Philippine 200-mile exclusive economic zone and more than 500 miles from China’s coast.

But the Palace talkers should listen first to words from the wise. Former Senate president and interior minister Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel sees no reason to jump for joy like chimpanzees. That Beijing is “giving permission” is an act of ownership of the food-rich shoal, he cautions. Yet Beijing owns nothing but bluster. The UN arbitral court has rubbished Beijing’s sovereignty and historic claim over the entire South China Sea.

Supreme Court Senior Justice Antonio Carpio cites ancient Chinese maps that show Hainan to be its southernmost island. Whereas, Spanish, American, and Commonwealth records, along with British Admiralty and Japanese mariner charts, have Scarborough as Philippine territory. The owner needs no outsider’s consent to enter a property. Not even armed inferiority changes that.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

Gotcha archives on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jarius-Bondoc/1376602159218459, or The STAR website http://www.philstar.com/author/Jarius%20Bondoc/GOTCHA

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