The Truth About Davao City Ordinances Every Visitor Should Know

Davao City has already been receiving many praises but when their beloved mayor, Rodrigo Duterte, decided to run for president, praises became controversies. One major controversy is the supposed drug free nature of the city. Although there hasn’t been any actual source to back up such allegation, it seems that it isn’t the only myth running rampant among many Filipinos who don’t know much about the city.

Myths can easily be spread through clever propaganda, but usually because of people’s lack of chance (or interest!) to get themselves informed. Let us bust the myths about Davao City ordinances to finally settle if the third largest city in the Philippines is really as strict as it deemed to be.

On Curfew

explore, travel, the truth about davao city ordinances every visitor should know

Myth: No one is allowed to loiter around the city after 1:00 – a la martial law.

In Practice: Davao City Juvenile Curfew

  • Minors (below 18) are not allowed to loiter around the city between 10:00 PM to 5:00 AM without an accompanying parent or guardian of legal age.
  • Parents of unescorted minors during curfew period will be arrested.

This ordinance has been strictly enforced since 2013. The then mayor stated on a local news that curfews “are really intended to protect public interest… not a punitive action against the minors or the children, rather intended as a social action to promote their welfare…”

Curfew on Juvenile is not an uncommon ordinance among other countries including United Kingdom and some states in the United States of America.

On Liquor Ban

explore, travel, the truth about davao city ordinances every visitor should know

Myth: Drinking of alcoholic beverages is not allowed after 1:00 AM.

In Practice: Davao City Amended Liquor Ban (Ordinance No. 004-13)

  • All persons are prohibited to sell and/or serve alcoholic beverages and other intoxicating products from 1:00 AM to 8:00 AM.
  • Consuming alcoholic beverages and other similar products are prohibited in business establishments and public places (i.e. streets, plazas, parks, parking area, et cetera)
  • All persons below legal drinking age are prohibited to drink alcoholic beverages in business establishments and public places.

Violation of said ordinance can incur penalties ranging from PHP 3,000 to PHP 5,000 and/or 3 month imprisonment on first to second offense and up to 1 year imprisonment with Business Permit revocation on subsequent offenses.

Drinking laws vary from country to country, and in some countries, from state to state. Most countries which are predominantly Islamic prohibit all activities involving alcoholic drinks and that is probably why we often misconstrue the term liquor ban. However, drinking laws in public spaces and prohibition in selling alcohol are not at all uncommon and are in effect (with varying provisions) in other countries like Norway, Finland, Australia and Singapore, among others.

On Smoking

explore, travel, the truth about davao city ordinances every visitor should know

Myth: Smoking is prohibited in all areas of Davao City

In Practice: Davao City New Comprehensive Anti-Smoking Ban (Ordinance No. 0367-12)

  • This regulation is implemented in the following: all means of public transportation, accommodation and entertainment establishments, workplaces, enclosed and partially enclosed public places and buildings, and public outdoor spaces.
  • Office of the City Mayor through Anti-Smoking Task Force can issue permit to establishments to provide designated smoking areas as long as it follows provided guidelines:
    • Must be located in open spaces not larger than 5 square metres.
    • Must be at least 10 metres away from entry/exit points, hallways and areas where people congregate.
    • Must bear highly visible and prominently displayed “SMOKING AREA” sign including graphic depiction of the effects of smoking and secondhand smoke to the health with no advertisements from any tobacco company.
    • No food and drinks shall be served within the area.
    • One smoking area per establishment
  • The ordinance is applicable to all tobacco products, shishas, electronic cigarettes and other similar products.

Penalties in violating the said ordinance ranges from PHP 1,000 to PHP 2,500 and/or 1 to 2 month imprisonment on first and second offense, and PHP 5,000 and/or 4 month imprisonment on third to subsequent offenses.

Unbeknownst to most, Davao City is simply following Republic Act 8749 (also known as Clean Air Act of the Philippines) enacted in 1999 where it is stated in Article 5 Section 24 that “Smoking inside a public building or an enclosed public place including public vehicles and other means of transport or in any enclosed area outside of one’s private residence, private place of work or any duly designated smoking area is hereby prohibited under this Act. This provision shall be implemented by the LGUs”.

On Firecrackers

explore, travel, the truth about davao city ordinances every visitor should know

Myth: Firecrackers and pyrotechnic devices are prohibited in all areas within Davao City

In Practice: Firecracker Ban (Ordinance No. 060-02)

  • Selling, distributing, and manufacturing of any firecrackers or pyrotechnic devices or such other similar devices within the territory of Davao City is prohibited.
  • Using any firecracker or pyrotechnic devices or any such other similar devices is prohibited at anytime and anywhere within the territory of Davao City.

Violation of the ordinance can incur the penalties of PHP 1,000 to PHP 3,000 and/or 1 month to 3 month imprisonment on first to second offence, and PHP 5,000 and/or 6 month imprisonment on third and subsequent offences.

Some myths can actually be true and such is the case of this ordinance which left many Filipinos still ambivalent towards it. But there are still myths surrounding this ordinance needing of some busting or clarification at least, like the assumption that Christmas and New Year cannot be celebrated without the long Filipino tradition of firecrackers.

Since the firecracker ban 15 years ago, Davaoeños found other ways to be merry during holidays. Christmas means family reunion now more than ever, and New Year is still being met with the loudest bang as they can muster through the Torotot Festival, an initiative of the city government.

explore, travel, the truth about davao city ordinances every visitor should know
1st Torotot Festival in Davao City 2013 | Image credit: Bro. Jeffrey Pioquinto, SJ

In the same way as other ordinances, the firecracker ban is also not unique to Davao City. Muntinlupa City (since 2013) and Olongapo City (since 2008) also have firecracker bans in effect. Among the countries with firecracker laws (with varying provisions) include Canada, Malaysia, Singapore and even mainland China, where firecrackers are banned in some urban cities during Lunar New Year.

For a complete list of ordinances in the city that are strictly enforced and followed, refer to the city’s official website. Other rules and regulations to keep in mind especially for visitors are: anti-littering in public spaces, anti-spitting in public spaces, and prohibition of motorist to ride without helmets on.

If there is one myth in dire need of disproving, it is the myth that the “law is made to be broken”. It baffles me how much shock the city of Davao has garnered from other people, especially from Filipinos, because of its ordinances being implemented when other more open countries also have similar laws on similar matters. It could be that it is not the city of Davao that is unique or too restricted, but that most Filipinos including the ones put to implement ordinances often have the deep-seated mindset that laws can be bent or disregarded even.

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