smuggling in the Philippines

Illegal cigarette trade costs government some P26 billion in taxes yearly

Antonio Manaytay
Illegal cigarette trade costs government some P26 billion in taxes yearly

DESTROYED. Some P258 million in smuggled cigarettes are destroyed by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in Zamboanga City.

BoC-Zamboanga City District Office

Some 13% of cigarettes being sold in the country today are illegal, says PBA party-list Representative Jericho Nograles

ZAMBOANGA SIBUGAY, Philippines – The government is losing an estimated P26 billion in taxes each year due to the illicit cigarette trade.

Cheap cigarettes, either manufactured without authorization or produced and distributed without paying duties, have flooded the market.

At least 13% of cigarettes being sold in the country today are illegal, and in several areas in Mindanao, as many as six of 10 sticks of cigarettes being retailed are contraband, said Representative Jericho Nograles of the PBA party-list.

In Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay, police seized smuggled cigarettes worth some P5.266 million on Saturday, April 16.

Police Master Sergeant Gil de Roda Jungco said authorities arrested two suspects during the operation in the village of Caparan at around 5:20 pm on Saturday.

One of the suspects was identified as 32-year-old Hamid Laja Pallong of Zamboanga City while the other was a 17-year-old resident of Barangay Sanito in Ipil town.

Jungco said police seized 402 cases of cigarettes, and two vehicles – a Toyota Innova and a Nissan van – from the suspects.

On March 31, police also confiscated some P210,000 worth of smuggled cigarettes at a checkpoint in Buug town, Zamboanga Sibugay.

In Zamboanga City, more than P36.5 million worth of smuggled cigarettes were also seized on January 7 and January 25, respectively.

Authorities said cigarette smuggling has become rampant in the province and Zamboanga City in recent years after the government imposed higher taxes on cigarettes.

Among the Mindanao provinces, Nograles said, Zamboanga Sibugay dominated the market for illegal cigarettes with 56%.

Sultan Kudarat, he said, ranked second at 35.6%. – Rappler.com

Antonio Manaytay is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship

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