The Philippine Tobacco Institute (PTI) initiated a series of forum in the regions to raise the level of awareness and information on the adverse impact of illicit trade of counterfeit products in the community and economy.
The undertaking was in collaboration with various government law enforcement agencies. It also focused on ways to prevent and restrain the entry and proliferation of fake products that pose major economic threat against legitimate products.
PTI stressed its commitment to its stakeholders towards regaining revenue loss, curbing the proliferation of illicit cigarettes, and promoting fair and sustainable business practices.
A two-day capacity building and forum was recently conducted with the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in Davao City, attended by personnel belonging to customs intelligence, enforcement and security, assessment and examiners.
Davao Port Collector Dino Austria said the discussion boosted the region’s customs intelligence in watching out for illicit products, especially on smuggled and fake cigarettes, citing that the illegal activities heightened even during the pandemic period.
Austria extended his full support in curbing illicit cigarettes, saying he will not allow the entry of spurious products that deprive the government of customs duties and taxes.
He is looking forward to more partnership with the private sector particularly on intelligence and technical support in curtailing entry of illicit cigarettes.
During the current lockdown period starting in March, there were a total of 38 law enforcement actions through raids, seizures, confiscation of smuggled and counterfeit cigarettes, including the closure of illegal warehouses and factories and destruction of machines and equipment used by the unlawful traders.
A similar event was held in Butuan City in collaboration with the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) led by Caraga Regional Chief Choli Jun Caduyac.
The CIDG chief stressed to his men the importance of safeguarding their jurisdiction and putting a stop to the rise of illicit cigarettes in the region as he cited the two illegal cigarette factories that were foiled by the team in 2018.
The capacity-building initiative shall help participants which include intelligence operatives and provincial CIDG heads in gaining technical skills in the detection of illicit actions for successful enforcement and eventual filing of cases against the perpetrators in the courts.
The CIDG team were provided an overview of the legal framework on enforcement actions, which include items and documents to watch out, red flags and inconsistencies that could be checked on incoming contrabands.
In the Province of Cebu , a Basic Product Authentication training was conducted with the Lapu-lapu City Police Office attended by police officers of the different stations upon the instruction of Police Colonel Clarito C. Baja.
The law enforcers were given an overview of the illicit cigarette trade and the prevalence of the unlawful business operations in the Visayas region.
They were trained on how to spot a counterfeit cigarette product to boost their knowledge and confidence in their enforcement.
PTI emphasizes that the lack of tax stamps and graphic health warnings is a sure sign that cigarette products are illicit.
Untaxed cigarettes should removed from the domestic market to protect much needed government revenues. For the January-to-June period, excise taxes collected on tobacco products reached P61.5 billion.