BOC to give priority to destroying illegal cigarettes to prevent pilferage
MANILA, Philippines—The Bureau of Customs (BOC) has issued an order to give priority to destroying smuggled cigarettes to prevent their pilferage and illegal sale.
In a Jan. 18 memorandum, Deputy Customs Commissioner Raniel Ramiro said Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero had noted an “apparent delay in the condemnation of seized smuggled cigarettes, exposing the same to possibility of pilferage and other unlawful activities.”
As a result the BOC reminded its personnel of 2020 and 2021 guidelines when disposing of confiscated goods.
“Seized smuggled cigarettes must be given priority in the preparation and execution of condemnation. The supervising team must also ensure the 24/7 guarding and surveillance of the [items] until the same shall have been destroyed,” the BOC said.
The BOC also required inviting representatives of registered owners of cigarette trademarks (in the case of fake cigarettes), local governments where the products will be destroyed, and media to witness condemnation by regulatory and enforcement agencies as well as the Commission on Audit (COA).
In 2021, majority of cases against smugglers whom the BOC haled to court involved suspected illicit cigarette traders, as cheaper counterfeit and smuggled sticks flourished amid the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic.
BOC data showed that 103 criminal cases filed at the Department of Justice (DOJ) under the bureau’s action team against smugglers (Batas) last year were charges against traders of illegal cigarette imports worth P897.1 million.
The share of untaxed cigarettes in domestic sales grew last year as enforcement operations against unscrupulous traders lost steam, no thanks to movement restrictions to contain COVID-19.
The latest estimates of Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Inc. showed that illegal cigarettes—smuggled or fake sticks with unpaid import duties, excise and other taxes—hiked their market share to 8.6 percent in 2021 from about 5 to 5.5 percent in 2020.
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