Cigarettes make up half of smuggled items in 2020 amid pandemic, says BOC
MANILA, Philippines—More than half of contraband seized by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in 2020 was illegal cigarettes as prolonged COVID-19 quarantine slashed both supply and demand of expensive, tax-paid sticks.
In a statement on Monday (Jan. 18), the Department of Finance (DOF) said that out of the P9.75 billion in smuggled goods which the BOC seized in 2020, 53.5 percent in terms of value or P5.22-billion worth were tobacco and cigarettes.
Citing a report of Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo B. Guerrero to Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, the DOF said that 150 out of the 792 anti-smuggling operations by the BOC last year yielded the smuggled cigars and tobacco products.
Illicit trade of smuggled and counterfeit cigarettes flourished amid the pandemic, especially as supply dwindled at the height of the longest and most stringent lockdown in the region which not only stopped domestic production but also restricted movement of non-essential goods.
Some consumers, meanwhile, had turned to cheaper alternatives amid a recession and higher taxes slapped on cigarettes.
The tobacco tax further rose this year to P50 per pack effective Jan. 1, from P45 a pack last year, under Republic Act (RA) No. 11346 or the Tobacco Tax Law of 2019.
Guerrero was quoted by the DOF as saying that the other smuggled products confiscated by the BOC last year included P1.85 billion in illegal drugs, P1.02 billion in fake goods, plus P32.59 million in various types of currencies.
He said also seized were general merchandise worth P403.89 million, vehicles and automobile accessories worth P354.53 million and agricultural products worth P207.7 million.
The other items seized were:
Personal protective equipment, medical supplies and cosmetics worth P195.57 million
- Jewelry and other products worth P69 million
- Food items worth P212 million
- Used clothes worth P130.59 million
- Electronic goods worth P31 million
- Steel products worth P4.76 million
- Alcoholic beverage worth P2.43 million
- Chemicals worth P5 million
- Firearms worth P300,000
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