PNP chief vows to run after traders of illicit cigarette
MANILA, Philippines – General Benjamin Acorda said the Philippine National Police (PNP) would join the nationwide battle against illicit cigarette trade.
During a budget hearing at the House of Representatives, Acorda promised to include the fight against counterfeit cigarette smuggling and sale in the PNP’s list of “primary considerations.”
Misamis Oriental 2nd District Rep. Yevgeny Vicente “Bambi” Emano raised the alarming proliferation of illicit cigarettes in Mindanao, specifically in his district, rendering thousands of tobacco farmer constituents jobless.
“I am hoping to bring this to the attention of the DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government) and PNP. The challenge for our tobacco farmers is they [spend] so much in inputs and labor, and yet the proliferation of illicit cigarettes has been present not only in my province but in the city of Cagayan de Oro. (CDO),” the lawmaker claimed.
Emano showed photos of smuggled cigarette brands taken only last week in CDO and Misamis Oriental. The smuggled cigarettes were sold at P45 per pack in public places compared to the legitimate cigarettes commonly sold at P160 per pack.
Emano asked the PNP chief about the police involvement in smuggling illegal cigarettes.
“The audacity of selling it in a market, those illegal brands and by reams and in front of public markets. It will certainly, definitely affect my tobacco farmers,” he lamented.
“Can I get the commitment of the PNP [for] more operations to apprehend, jail, and whatever they will do to hopefully stop those illegal cigarette trade and which are actually sold also in the islands of Mindanao?”
To this, Acorda replied: “The PNP under my leadership gives our full commitment (to fight against smuggling and sale of illegal cigarettes). We will consider that as one of our primary considerations.”
The PNP has been on a strict directive from President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to curb smuggling and all forms of illicit trade in the country.
Emano told Acorda and officials of the DILG present during the budget deliberation that the entire Misamis Oriental, his district included and specifically the eastern portion, used to earn much from the tobacco excise tax collection.
The tobacco farmers from the western part of Misamis Oriental continue to plant tobacco but have been severely affected by the rampant sale of various brands of smuggled cigarettes, the lawmaker said.
Based on the minimum price requirement issued by the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the cost of each pack of legal cigarette should not be lower than P114.60
Emano emphasized the importance of sustained and determined trade enforcement operations by police operatives in coordination with local government units to cease these illegal cigarette trades finally.
The PNP, since the assumption to power Marcos last year, continuously implemented the Oplan Mega Shopper, which is being enforced by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group against those selling smuggled and counterfeit cigarettes in various parts of the country.
The PNP likewise escalated and sustained its checkpoint activities and confiscated millions of smuggled cigarettes.
During his second State of the Nation Address in July, President Marcos also sought the help of the Senate and House of Representatives to approve a proposed bill amending the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016 to make it more adaptive to the present situation.
The House of Representatives had already passed the third and final reading of the proposed amendment. Senator Cynthia Villar, chair of Senate committee on agriculture and food, has committed to pass their counterpart bill before the end of 2023.
Aside from the stiffer penalties and higher jail terms, both proposed bills amending the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016 seek to include tobacco and its finished products, like cigarettes, in the classification of “agricultural commodities.”