Call for Crackdown on Illicit Cigarettes

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Philippine Representative Joey Salceda has called for a crackdown on the illicit cigarette trade, reports The Inquirer.

The lawmaker, who chairs the ways and means committee, estimates the Philippines loses at least PHP30 billion ($618.29 million) annually due to cigarette smuggling. He attributes the problem to lax law enforcement.

Salceda said the Bureau of Internal Revenue should reverse a rule from 2015 that exempts cigarette manufacturers from tax stamps for exports and instead requires them to have unique identification codes (UIC). Because the rule relies on self-declaration, it is prone to abuse, according to Salceda.  

“Stricter enforcement is absolutely critical, so the policy fix will involve closing the loopholes that lighten enforcement,” he added.

Cigarettes top the Philippines’ Bureau of Customs’ (BOC) list of most smuggled products.

According to the Department of Finance (DOF), more than half of contraband seized by the BOC in 2020 was illegal cigarettes.

The DOF said that out of the PHP9.75 billion in smuggled goods that the BOC seized in 2020, 53.5 percent in terms of value, or PHP5.22-billion worth, were tobacco and cigarettes.