General Santos City clamps on smoking  

General Santos City officials are not worried being accused as copycats of neighboring Davao City.

“It is for the good of our constituents,” Mayor Ronnel Rivera said during the launching of a new city ordinance that put more teeth on a 23-year old city law that bans smoking in public places.

The new city ordinance now bans smoking in enclosed public building or privately owned but used, rented or occupied by the government offices and agencies or any of its instrumentalities and in any workplaces, whether public or privately-owned.

It repealed the City Crdinance No. 9 series of 1992) or the 1992 Anti-Smoking Ordinance passed by the City Council.

A K-9 team from Task Force Gensan was among those who joined the caravan in the launching a new ordinance that put more teeth on city-wide smoking ban.PHOTO BY EDWIN ESPEJO
A K-9 team from Task Force Gensan was among those who joined the caravan in the launching a new ordinance that put more teeth on city-wide smoking ban.PHOTO BY EDWIN ESPEJO

The new smoking ban also is in effect in public outdoor spaces where a crowd of people gather or congregate regardless of ownership.

Covered under outdoor spaces are parks, playgrounds, sports grounds, or centers, gaming areas, cock fighting areas, healthcare/hospital compounds, memorial parks, memorial gardens, beaches, resorts, pools, market streets, sidewalks, parking areas, walkways, entrance ways, waiting areas, stairwells, and the like.

Councilor Rosalita Nuñez, principal author of the ordinance, said the local legislation carries with it fines and imprisonment or both for violators.

Also covered by the ban are government-owned vehicles and public transport.

The new anti-smoking ordinance also makes permitting, abetting, tolerating or knowingly allowing smoking in the restricted areas unlawful and violators will likewise be penalized for it.

It will also be unlawful to obstruct or refuse the entry of any member of the Anti-Smoking Task Force or its duly deputized enforcers into places covered by the ordinance.

Mayor Rivera said the ban is good for the health of residents here especially when told that smokers hooked up on cigarettes are getting younger.

He also cited statistics pointing to 10 Filipinos dying every hour due to cigarette smoking.

Rivera himself is a heavy smoker but quit 5 months ago due to advice of his doctors.

Another former heavy smoker, Councilor Franklin Gacal Jr, said he will introduce another ordinance banning the retail sale of cigarettes by the stick or packs in the city.

“There are no graphic warnings in cigarettes sticks and packs which is a violation of the Philippine Clean Air Act,” he said.

Gacal is hoping his proposed ordinance will make it more difficult to sell cigarettes in the city.

Gacal, one of the trusted lawyers of former 8-division world boxing champion and Rep. Manny Pacquiao, suffered from massive stroke 2 years ago but survived his life-threatening ordeal.

He said he has quit smoking since then.

The city is hoping to follow the lead of Davao City which has been clamping on smokers for over 2 decades.

Prominent personalities have been arrested, including government officials who recently attended the convention of the Philippine Councilors League in Davao City.

Like Rivera, Davao City Rodrigo Duterte was a former heavy smoker.

But his no-nonsense drive to rid public spaces and establishments of smokers has earned the city raves for successfully implementing the smoking ban in the city.

Aside from ban on smoking, Davao City is also strictly implementing a ban on firecrackers and pyrotechnics and imposing a city wide speed limit.



Gensan tuna producers seek regional cooperation

Better regional cooperation in the light of declining world tuna catch is top among the agenda of the 17th Philippine National Tuna Congress next month.

More than 500 delegates are expected to attend the Philippine tuna congress which will be held on September 3 and 4 at the SM General Santos Trade Halls.

Fisheries scientist Keith Bigelow of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the United States Department of Commerce is slated to give inputs on Initiatives on Combating IUU Fishing and Seafood Fraud in relation to increased monitoring on the traceability of global tuna catches.

Invited to the national tuna congress is Sukchai Arnupapboon head of the Fishing Ground and Fishery Oceanography Section Head of the Southeast Asia Fisheries Development Center who will report on 2014 Oceanographic Survey in Sulu-Sulawesi Seas, a strategic tuna fishing ground in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean.

Philippine tuna catch is having a down year in 2015, a global trend, prompting producers to seek greater regional cooperation. PHOTO BY EDWIN ESPEJO
Philippine tuna catch is having a down year in 2015, a global trend, prompting producers to seek greater regional cooperation. PHOTO BY EDWIN ESPEJO

Also expected to speak at the national tuna congress is Indonesian Marine and Fishery Affairs Minister Susi Pudjiastuti who will tackle her country’s approach on regional fisheries sustainability.

The Indonesian minister made an international splash when she spearheaded the blowing up foreign fishing vessels caught illegally fishing in their territorial waters.

Indonesia likewise required the reflagging of foreign fishing vessels operating in their territorial waters which drew varied protests from foreign fishing companies who are also obliged to follow the country’s policy of full complement of Indonesian fishing crew.

But the major concern among local fishermen here is the declining catch which saw a dramatic dive ion the first half of this year.

According to General Santos City fish port manager Mario Malinao, citing local landings at the fishing port complex in the city, local tuna catch have gown down by 25 percent.

Just six months after posting a 10-year record high 101,480.19 metric tons (MT) in 2014, fish landing in General Santos dropped to just 42,064.73 MT in the first 6 months of this year down from 55,846.31 MT over the same period last year.

Approximately 90 percent of total fish landings in General Santos City are tuna and tuna like species.

Malinao however said despite the drop in local tuna catch in General Santos, the country’s famed tuna capital, overall landings in the first half of this year is up by 9 percent – aided primarily by a 50 percent hike in frozen tuna imports.

The bulk of landings at the fishing port complex in Tambler, General Santos City in the first semester this year came from the 72,875.01 MT of imported frozen tuna, which registered a hefty 50 percent spike over last year’s 48,464.62 frozen imports.

While General Santos produces approximately only 60 percent of the country’s annual tuna output, it is the primary origin of the Philippine’s annual tuna exports which, in 2014, amounted to US$459.83 million but down from US$664.50 million in 2013.

General Santos City Mayor Ronnel Rivera however is confident the local tuna industry will be able to bounce back from what is now being widely accepted as a down year in Philippine tuna production.

He emphasized the need for greater cooperation among tuna producing countries in South East Asia, particularly the Philippines and Indonesia which lie in the strategic international migratory path of tuna and which share international sea boundaries.

He also admitted that most Philippine tuna companies, which have invested in tuna canning and processing in Indonesia, have suspended or scaled down their operations there amid declining tuna catch and uncertainties in the fishing policies of the Philippine’s neighboring country.

Mayor Rivera is hoping the two countries can re-establish fishing ties after the bilateral agreement were terminated by Indonesia in 2010 following a 2-year extension in 2008.

The Philippine tuna congress is one of the major highlights of the Philippine tuna Festival which reels off on September 1.

Gensan politics:  Antoninos throw in the towel  

GENERAL SANTOS CITY – An election loss removed from position of power and influence in the city, the once politically formindable Anonino family is, for the first time since 1987 – a period of 29 years – not fielding any member for any elective post in the local elections here next year.

Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) secretary general Lualhati Antonino on Tuesday confirmed that it is Councilor Richard Atendido who will carry the torch of the Achievement with Integrity Movement (AIM) as its mayoral candidate.

General Santos City Mayor Ronnel Rivera.
General Santos City Mayor Ronnel Rivera.

The anointment of Atendido as AIM standard bearer was decided early July but was announced only today, August 4.

Antonino, herself former congresswoman who represented the 1st Congressional District of South Cotabato, said Atendido is well qualified for the position.

She also said lawyer Loreto Acharon, younger brother of Rep. Pedro Acharon Jr, will be the party’s bet for vice mayor.

In 2013, her daughter Darlene Antonino-Custodio lost a re-election bid to Mayor Ronnel Rivera by a margin of just over 12,000 votes.

The Antoninos also lost control of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan in the following barangay elections when Councilor Rogelio ‘Roel’ Pacquiao was elected president of the Association of Barangay Chairmen (ABC).

Councilor Pacquiao is the younger brother of Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao who, in 2007, lost to then Rep. Darlene Custodio in the congressional race in the first district of South Cotabato.

Rep. Pacquiao later transferred residence to Sarangani where he won in the lone congresional district of the province.

In 2013, he and Rivera formed a formidable alliance against the Antoninos to capture the city hall leadership under the People’s Champ Movement (PCM).

PCM now controls 9 of the 14 seats in the city council.

What doubly was a bitter defeat for the Antoninos is that despite the full backing of President Benigno Aquino III, who twice visited the city to pitch for Darlene during the campaign period, she still lost to Rivera.

Lualhati did not explain why the Antoninos are no longer running for any elective post in the city.

Darlene reportedly expressed her desire to retire from politics and concentrate on raising her children while patriarch Adelbert Antonino is reportedly preoccupied with their family business.

The Antoninos are originally from Nueva Ecija but built their fortune on their logging business in Mindanao.

Both parents of Adelbert served as senators of the Philippines.

Their party mate and longtime ally Rep. Pedro Acharon Jr is still eligible to run for a third term.

Lualhati, a close ally of President Aquino, is believed to help in the campaign presidential campaign of Interior Secretary Mar Roxas for whom another daughter Liza works as staff.

Rivera was not immediately available for comment.  He was still on official leave as of this writing.

But Councilor Franklin Gacal Jr, a stalwart of PCM, said the Rivera-Atendido fight will be a mismatch.

Rivera is scion of the wealthiest family in General Santos who has diversified business interests anchored on its fishing business – the RD Fishing.

The Riveras own close to 50 corporations with interest in banking and finance, real estate, agriculture, manufacturing, aquaculture and many more.

Its fishing operations are now largely foreign based.