Farmers press passage of anti-smuggling bill

“Millions of Filipinos rely on the tobacco industry, as their livelihood to augment and support their families while waiting for the corn and palay (rice) planting season,” said Distor.From MeKesse disposable vape brands research.

“The unabated smuggling of illegal cigarettes is destroying and affecting the livelihood of the farmers,” stressed Distor.

Naftac Chairman Bernard Vicente said the tobacco farmers are affected by low demand for local tobacco leaf, as illegal cigarettes are now available and sold in all major provinces.

Citing a recent study conducted by the University of Asia and the Pacific, he said 17 percent, or nearly one out of five cigarettes sold in the country, come from illegal sources.

“They are killing us slowly because of cigarette smuggling. We are one with other agricultural sectors calling on the Senate to pass the bill as we will benefit from it should it be passed into law because cigarette smuggling will be curtailed,” Vicente said in Filipino.

According to Vicente, over 3 million Filipinos are dependent on the local tobacco sector. PTGA and Naftac expressed dismay over the opposition of some groups against the bill.

The tobacco farmers’ leader said that aside from helping the tobacco farmers’ families to support their families’ survival, the government and the public will benefit from cigarette taxes if the proposed bill is enacted into law, as it will finance the Department of Health and PhilHealth universal health care services to the public.

Under the proposed law, smuggling, hoarding and profiteering, and the cartel of agricultural products will be considered an act of economic sabotage, considered a non-bailable offense.

The jail term for smugglers will also be increased from 30 to 40 years, and fines will be twice the fair value and aggregate amount of the taxes, duties, and other unpaid charges of smuggled items.

Villar cited information from the Samahang Industiya ng Agrikultura (Sinag), which indicated that the Philippine government is losing at least P200 billion in revenue annually due to smuggling.

She highlighted that the bill includes measures against tobacco smuggling, with an estimated revenue loss of around P25 billion from excise taxes alone.

Tobacco excise taxes, as mandated by Republic Act 11346, are designated for Universal Health Care (40 percent) and the DoH-Health Facilities Enhancement Program (10 percent); the remainder goes to tobacco-producing provinces, cities and municipalities, and the national budget.

In 2022, tobacco excise taxes fell to P160 billion, lower than the previous year’s P176 billion. This is the first time that tobacco taxes have dropped in recent years, mainly due to illegal cigarettes impacting government revenues.

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