By Darryl John Esguerra

CRACKDOWN ON SMUGGLERS. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. convenes the 6th Private Sector Advisory Council-Agriculture Sector Group (PSAC-ASG) meeting in Malacañang on Wednesday (May 8, 2024). During the meeting, the President directed relevant government agencies and law enforcement units to toughen their campaign against the smuggling of tobacco and vape products. (Photo courtesy of Presidential Communications Office)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has directed the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to strengthen efforts against the smuggling of tobacco and vape products.

Marcos issued the call during the 6th Private Sector Advisory Council-Agriculture Sector Group (PSAC-ASG) meeting in Malacañang on Wednesday, where he sought the intensified enforcement of anti-smuggling measures.

“Enforcement and anti-smuggling and all that. You really have to beef them up and I think we’re doing that,” Marcos said, as quoted in a Presidential Communications Office (PCO) news release on Thursday.

“There will be [more efforts] with the Bureau of Customs and BIR so that we can improve performance with that regard,” he added.

In response, Special Assistant to the President on Economic and Economic Affairs Frederick Go said the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Consumer Protection Group has committed to assigning more people to help monitor the vape industry.

BIR Commissioner Romeo Lumagui Jr., for his part, said his agency has intensified its crackdown against smuggled vape products and is set to implement a tax stamp system to rid the market of illegal vape products.

The PSAC-ASG also made several recommendations and policy requirements to ensure the protection of the tobacco industry, including the release of government funds as prescribed under Republic Act (RA) 4155 for the National Tobacco Authority (NTA) Sustainable Tobacco Enhancement Program (STEP) to aid the smuggling efforts.

It also sought amendments to the Anti-Agri Smuggling Act of 2016 to include tobacco products and pushed for provisions on minimum retail price (MRP) and penalties for distributing and selling smuggled products.

The body also called on DTI to set a deadline for the registration of importers and manufacturers of vapor products and the BIR to start imposing tax requirements on tobacco and vapor products.

Likewise, it highlighted the sustained enforcement of laws against smugglers and retailers.

Operations involving these products should also be reported to the Office of the President every month, it added.

The Philippine tobacco industry provides livelihood to 2.2 million Filipinos while tobacco excise tax makes up 4 percent of total government revenues, or P135 billion in 2023.

The government earmarks 50 percent of excise tax collection to fund the Universal Health Care implementation and construction and improvement of health facilities. (PNA)