Regulation in aid of protection
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - November 22, 2019 - 12:00am

According to certain members of Congress, they are inclined to push for the regulation and taxation of e-cigarettes, because this would be better than completely banning e-cigarettes. The argument is that a ban would force Vapers and e-cigarette vendors to go underground, prevent government from regulating and securing public health and safety etc., etc.

All this in spite of recent findings globally that vaping is harmful, that the Philippines has identified its first victim of e-cigarettes who also happens to be a minor, and in spite of President Rodrigo Duterte’s orders to ban vaping in all public places. In the first place, the automatic assertion that the government is incapable of policing smugglers and illegal traders is an insult to law enforcement and border authorities that we should not allow to continue on the part of lawmakers and politicians. The PNP, AFP and Bureau of Customs have time and again shown they are all able to perform such a task. Leaders in Congress should remind its members to shut their big mouths from insulting our people in uniform!

While legislators generously malign law enforcers, what members of Congress are not telling the public is that there is a very strong lobby to defend the vaping business because one of the biggest brands of e-cigarettes is a side-line or personal venture of an influential Filipino-Chinese big businessman with very close ties with people in Malacañang.

What these so-called “Representatives” are not telling their constituents is that by pushing for legislated regulation, instead of banning e-cigarettes or vaping, Congress is actually protecting the business interests of e-cigarette importers, distributors and vendors from acts such as the ban on vaping done by President Duterte in response to a serious health threat. Once “regulated” through law, it will become almost impossible to stop the sale and use of harmful products such as e-cigarettes.

Proof of this move to protect vaping and e-cigarettes is that members of Congress are actually recognizing and giving consideration to the position of the e-cigarette industry that they be slapped with a lesser or lower tax than tobacco and cigarettes. Don’t be fooled by members of Congress and their sweet words of concern and promise to tax e-cigarettes. None of this BS will prevent and protect kids from falling into the trap of vendors who will profit from the chemical dependency of the child addicts they are creating.

The burden of taxes won’t be at the distributors and vendors expense, neither will the cost to lobby and “pera-suade” politicians to protect e-cigarette commerce be a burden to industry giants because in the end all the money will come from sales of e-cigarettes that will go on through many decades. God forbid that one of their sons or daughters or staff or close friends end up burning their lungs, but maybe that is what’s needed to make them realize that “protecting” the industry means killing people in the end. Shame on legislators who protect vaping at the expense of people’s health!

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I have long criticized national and local traffic executives particularly those who come up with solutions and designs from the comforts of their air-conditioned offices, relying on maps and visual aids laid out before them. These are the armchair experts and executives who come up with ideas far from the actual location and with very little observation of conditions on the ground.

I was recently reminded of this sin when I went to the Rizal Medical Center along Pasig Boulevard at 8 a.m. last Wednesday. The hospital has its main entrance on Pasig Boulevard but vehicles coming from Shaw Boulevard cannot enter RMC because of lane dividers put up by traffic officials under the Eusebio administration.  So if an ambulance or private vehicle with a passenger in serious condition needs to enter RMC, the driver has to drive past the entrance go 100 meters toward C5 and make a U-turn and double back to the main entrance. The problem especially in the morning is that Pasig traffic enforcers prioritize motorists coming out of central Pasig headed for C5 Makati, which causes a huge traffic build-up, making it impossible for ambulances and patients to U-turn toward RMC quickly. It takes anywhere from 10 minutes up to get through the build up.

To begin with, it might be a good idea for Pasig City officials to lobby with DPWH Secretary Mark Villar for the construction of two or three more bridges in and out of Pasig City proper instead of the bridge to nowhere currently being built by Chinese contractors to connect Barrio Kapitolyo with BGC. As for remedying the access issue to Rizal Medical Center, the simple solution would be to replace the concrete lane dividers in front of the RMC entrance with a boom type gate or weighted bar that security guards or assigned traffic enforcers could simply lift to allow RMC bound vehicles to turn in. The present situation can seriously compromise the survival or immediate treatment of emergency patients. I hope the good Mayor of Pasig Vico Sotto can find time to meet up with hospital officials to consider the long-standing request to provide a break in the barrier and the positioning of a portable gate.

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