House panel calls for full investigation on tobacco products smuggling

House panel calls for full investigation on tobacco products smuggling

The House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means, under its chairman Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, has called for a thorough investigation on cigarette and tobacco products smuggling activities in the country during a briefing with the Bureau of Customs (BOC) on Monday, Nov. 22.

The committee hearing was a followup to the inquiry made on the illicit trade of cigarettes and tobacco products, including enforcement activities against it, policy innovations to prevent smuggling in ecozones, and data on domestic sales of tobacco products, collection, and volume of removals.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) during the hearing gave updates on their actions taken in relation to the House Technical Working Group’s recommendations; collection data; updated data on the volume of removals and excise tax collections for domestically produced and for domestic consumption, and raw materials and finished products with corresponding excise tax; the list of all registered cigarettes and tobacco brands; report on illicit cigarettes by STRIKE Team and cases filed; domestic sales data, and update on criminal complaint against GB BEM Cigarette Company, Inc. and Global Exprez Inc.

The BOC, on the other hand, gave an update on its recent policy on the strategic innovation with the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) and other ecozones as conduit for smuggling, and the conduct of a post clearance audit on PEZA locations within the Victoria Wave Special Economic Zone.

Nueva Ecija Rep. Estrellita “Ging” Suansing, in her manifestation, noted the need to identify and monitor industries or companies that are engaged in illicit trade of cigarette and tobacco products.

The committee also called for a complete investigation on ‘smuggling hotbeds’ in the country namely Subic, Clark, Zamboanga and Cagayan de Oro City.

The panel also reminded the Department of Finance to closely coordinate with the BOC, PEZA and BIR to make sure that the government’s policies against smuggling will be enforced. (Melvin Sarangay)