Philip­pines in­ten­si­fies crack­down on fake cig­a­rettes

The Nation - - AEC -

CIT­ING the pos­si­bil­ity that un­scrupu­lous man­u­fac­tur­ers could be in ca­hoots with gov­ern­ment per­son­nel in the pro­lif­er­a­tion of fake cig­a­rettes, Fi­nance Sec­re­tary Car­los Dominguez has or­dered the coun­try’s two big­gest tax-col­lec­tion agen­cies to in­ten­sify their crack­down on the il­le­gal trade.

The Depart­ment of Fi­nance on Wednesday said that Dominguez also or­dered Cus­toms Com­mis­sioner Isidro Lapena and In­ter­nal Rev­enue Com­mis­sioner Cae­sar Du­lay to “dis­able the con­fis­cated ma­chines” caught churn­ing out coun­ter­feit cig­a­rettes “so that they would no longer be us­able.” In par­tic­u­lar, the depart­ment noted that the equip­ment that pro­duced fake cig­a­rettes in Lu­zon and Visayas seemed to have en­tered the coun­try un­de­tected.

“I want to hit them with ev­ery­thing you’ve got, the [BOC] and the BIR, and get to the bot­tom of this,” Dominguez was quoted by the depart­ment as say­ing dur­ing a re­cent meet­ing with of­fi­cials of the two agen­cies.

An an­ti­ci­garette smug­gling “strike team” com­prised of Bureau of Cus­toms and Bureau of In­ter­nal Rev­enue op­er­a­tives ear­lier re­ported to Dominguez that it seized one fil­ter-mak­ing ma­chine, four un­li­censed cig­a­rette-mak­ing ma­chines as well as six cig­a­rette- pack­ing ma­chines in Pam­panga that the BIR said were smug­gled.

“Two fac­to­ries in Ca­gayan de Oro, mean­while, yielded un­reg­is­tered cig­a­rette-mak­ing ma­chines, pack­ag­ing ma­chines and a fil­ter- mak­ing ma­chine dur­ing re­cent oper­a­tions also con­ducted by the BIR strike team,” the depart­ment added, such that the BIR told Dominguez that these ma­chines “will be prop­erly dis­abled to pre­vent their fur­ther us­age.”

“You bet­ter trace where these ma­chines came from. Who are the peo­ple be­hind this? How did these ma­chines get in?” Dominguez told BOC and BIR of­fi­cials.

For the BOC, Dominguez or­dered the agency to find out from what coun­try the ma­chines orig­i­nated and how the units were al­lowed by that coun­try for ex­port when these were most prob­a­bly clas­si­fied as “con­trolled items”.

Cus­toms Deputy Com­mis­sioner Ed­ward James Dy Buco was quoted by the depart­ment as say­ing that the BOC “will have the en­try of these ma­chines investigated.”

The BIR chief ear­lier ad­mit­ted that smug­gling be­came ram­pant af­ter the gov­ern­ment raised the ex­cise tax slapped on cig­a­rettes un­der the Tax Re­form for Ac­cel­er­a­tion and In­clu­sion (TRAIN) Act.

Un­der the TRAIN law, the uni­tary ex­cise tax slapped on cig­a­rettes rose to 32.50 pe­sos a pack ef­fec­tive Jan­uary 1 from 30 pe­sos last year.

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