Gov’t to ask neighbors to help curb cigarette smuggling
The Philippines’ fight against smuggled cigarettes will be brought to the shores of neighboring countries where these illicit products reportedly come from, the head of the Duterte administration’s economic team said.
“We are increasing vigilance against non-tax paid cigarettes from all sources. We will order the BOC [Bureau of Customs] to alert their counterparts in China and all Asean countries to the practice of exporting untaxed cigarettes to the Philippines,” Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III told reporters.
Last week, Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo B. Guerrero told reporters that the cigarettes being smuggled into the country mostly came from China and neighboring Asean countries.
Besides the entry of smuggled cigarettes, unscrupulous traders were also bringing in unregistered cigarette-making machines mostly from China, Guerrero added.
Guerrero said he would again raise this concern on smuggled cigarette-manufacturing equipment to his Chinese counterpart from the General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China (GACC) when they met next month.
In a statement on Wednesday, the BOC said that the Port of Zamboanga, together with Naval Task Group Sulu, on Oct. 27 seized 2,727 master cases of smuggled Canon and Fort cigarettes worth about P95 million from a motor launch vessel in the waters of Siasi, Sulu.
On Oct. 25, the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s (BIR) so-called “strike team” against illicit cigarettes also raided a warehouse in Binondo, Manila, which yielded 145 master cases containing 1.45 million sticks of Chinese-branded cigarettes such as Changbaishan, Double Happiness, Huanghelou, Goldenleaf, Liqun, Septwolves, Taishan and YunYan.
In a report, BIR revenue officer and strike team head Remedios C. Advincula Jr. said these Chinese cigarettes did not bear tax stamps—hence did not pay excise taxes—and had no graphic health warnings on their packs.
“The emergence of a flourishing black-market industry of Chinese-branded cigarettes in the country is becoming alarming. Unscrupulous traders saw an opportunity to illegally import cigarettes from China amid the growing Chinese market in the Philippines. Filipinos don’t patronize these brands, that’s why I suspect they only cater to Chinese smokers who are here,” Advincula said in the report.
The country’s top revenue officials, including Dominguez, Guerrero and Internal Revenue Commissioner Caesar R. Dulay, had earlier admitted that with higher excise slapped on tobacco products, the proliferation of illicit cigarettes and fake tax stamps was expected to “bloom some more” next year. —BEN O. DE VERA
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