BAGUIO CITY – The City Council approved on first reading a proposed ordinance prohibiting the chewing of betel nut or the spitting of betel liquid or ‘moma’ in public places in the city to promote health and address environmental concerns and providing penalties for violations. The ordinance authored by Vice Mayor Bilog stated that the City Health Services office shall be the lead agency in the implementation of the provisions of the local legislative measure; the City Market Division of the City Treasurer’s Office for the public market; the Baguio City Police office (BCPO) and the Public Order and Safety Division shall ensure enforcement while the barangay officials in the city’s 128 barangays shall guarantee the implementation of the provisions of the ordinance in their areas of jurisdiction, particularly in public places in the barangays. The ordinance stipulated that considering that the local government understands the need for betel nut vendors or sellers to earn a living, they shall not be prohibited from selling betel nut to adults, however, they shall inform all their clients of the existence of the ordinance to ensure the full implementation of its provisions. Any individual found violating the provisions of the measure shall be liable to pay a fine of P1,000 for the first offense, a fine of P2000 for the second offense and P3,000 for the third and succeeding offenses. On the other hand, any vendor found to have sold betel nut to a minor shall be fined P3,000 for the first offense and the cancellation of his or her business permit in the succeeding offenses. The City Health Services office, in coordination with the City Public Information Office and the 128 barangays of the city, shall spearhead in the information and education campaign about the ordinance and on the health risks and diseases that may result due to the chewing of betel nut such as oral cancer, throat cancer, and even cardio-vascular arrhythmias. Further, the City Health Services Office shall prepare the implementing rules and regulations of the ordinance and submit the same to the City Mayor and the Sangguniang Panlungsod ng Baguio for approval. Earlier, Ordinance No. 54, series of 1988 was enacted prohibiting any person to spit or expectorate in public places in the city.
Further, Ordinance No. 06, series of 2011 was enacted amending Ordinance No. 054, series of 1988, by including an additional Section mandating betel nut aficionados to spit in containers for sanitary and health reasons. Despite the existence of the said ordinances, Bilog claimed that marks of betel quid or moma is evident in public places and even containers with betel quid which were not disposed of properly, most especially in the central business district, including parks, public utility terminals among others. Health authorities claimed that the chewing of betel nuts has no beneficial health effects and such is supported by the World Health Organization’s 2012 technical report on the review of the betel nut and the tobacco use in the Pacific which stated that ‘a major effort needs to be made to provide decision-makers with evidence of the serious harm caused by betel nut chewing, with or without tobacco./Dexter A. See