THE Department of Labor and Employment has rejected plans of the Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to ban smoking in a bid to control the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
During the COVID-19 Coordinated Operations to Defeat Epidemic Team Visit in Gen. Trias, Cavite on Thursday, Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said the IATF originally planned to ban smoking but DOLE raised opposition owing to its serious repercussions to businesses and employment.
“We can’t ban smoking because it will adversely affect the tobacco industry,” Bello, a key member of the task force, said.
The labor chief said the tobacco business remits to the government P145-billion in excise taxes yearly while employing 2.5 million Filipino workers. It contributes heavily to the universal health fund of the government.
“If we ban smoking, those figures will be severely affected,” he added.
As labor secretary, Bello said his job is to protect and preserve employment and to achieve that he helps shops to stay in business.
As a result of DOLE’s position on the matter, smoking is still allowed but doing so should be done individually in designated smoking areas.
“We can smoke in smoking areas. But the condition is one smoker at a time,” Bello explained.
Meanwhile, Bello continued extending the Labor Department’s financial assistance to overseas Filipino workers displaced by the pandemic.
In the same event, Bello awarded 30 certificates of the financial aid to OFW beneficiaries of Silang to help its troubled migrant workers.
Each certificate entitles an OFW beneficiary to a P20,000 initial capital for livelihood or business.
DOLE gave similar financial aid to 20 distressed migrant workers in Antipolo on Wednesday.