Manila urges neighbours, China to combat illegal cigarettes menace

COUNTRIES in South East Asia and China are the source of illegal cigarettes in the Philippines and should help each other to combat the proliferation of illicit tobacco.

This urgent call, said The Inquirer, was from Philippine officials who also revealed that another factor that helped this illegal industry to grow is the presence of unregistered cigarette-making machines.

Philippines Finance Secretary, Carlos G. Dominguez III was quoted as telling media representatives:

“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.”

Officials said that the third factor that contributes to illicit tobacco in the country is the demand for Chinese branded cigarettes.

“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,” said Bureau Internal Revenue officer and task force team leader, Remedios Advincula Jr.

He also warned the public about the danger of the cigarettes which did not carry tax stamps therefore avoided excise taxes apart from no graphic health warnings on their packs.

On 27th October, authorities seized 2,727 cases of smuggled Canon and Fort cigarettes worth P$95 million (RM7. 8 million from a vessel in the waters of Siasi, Sulu.

Two days before, the BIR task force raided a warehouse in Binondo, Manila, where they impounded 145 cases containing 1.45 million sticks of Chinese-branded cigarettes.

According to Business World, cigarettes and alcohol remain the top two counterfeit goods being smuggled into the Philippines, followed by fake medicines and personal health products.