By Chino Leyco
The government destroyed P1-billion worth of illegal cigarette-making machines and counterfeit tobacco products seized in various raids conducted in Visayas and Mindanao, the Department of Finance (DOF) said Wednesday.
In a statement, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said the more than P1 billion worth of manufacturing machines and fake cigarettes were destroyed by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) in a waste disposal facility in Cagayan de Oro.
The BIR had earlier uncovered illicit manufacturing operations in Cagayan de Oro City in Misamis Oriental and in the cities of Tacloban and Ormoc in Leyte that led to the seizure of the illegal cigarette-making machines, counterfeit cigarettes, raw materials, and packaging supplies used for cigarette manufacturing.
BIR Deputy Commissioner Arnel Guballa reported to Dominguez that the destruction activity was led by the bureau’s operations group and its strike team. It was witnessed by representatives from the Commission on Audit, National Bureau of Investigation, local government units, local press and revenue regional offices.
In an earlier report to Dominguez, the BIR said the illegal tobacco trade has shifted from smuggling cigarettes to producing locally counterfeit brands using undocumented cigarette-making machines acquired mostly from China.
During President Duterte’s fifth official visit to China, an intergovernmental implementation agreement was signed by Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero and Minister Ni Yuefeng of the General Administration of Customs of China (GACC).
The agreement between Manila and Beijing sets the scope and guidelines in strengthening the cooperation and mutual assistance on customs matters between the two countries.
Dominguez said the agreement covers GACC’s commitment to assist the BOC in monitoring and stopping the entry into the Philippines of unauthorized cigarette-making machines originating from China.
The Finance chief directed Customs and the BIR earlier this year to work with their respective counterparts in China to stop the illicit entry of cigarette-making machines that are being used to manufacture counterfeit tobacco products in the country.
Guerrero and Chinese Commerce Minister Zhong Shan also signed a separate agreement on Beijing’s donation of four mobile x-ray container vehicle inspection systems and two luggage inspection systems to the Philippines during the President’s visit to China.