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SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau

12 September 2022 04:48:20 PM

TWO congressional leaders filed a bill seeking to amend the
anti-agricultural smuggling act of 2016 to include and classify
cigarette smuggling as economic sabotage.

House Bill (HB) No. 3917 was principally authored by presidential son,
senior Deputy Majority Leader Sandro Marcos and PBA Party-list Rep.
Margarita Ignacia Nograles.

Marcos is from Ilocos Norte noted for its tobacco farming, while
Nograles hails from Mindanao, which incidentally illicit tobacco trade
is prevalent.

Under the proposed law, cigarette smuggling as economic sabotage
carries stiffer and heftier penalties, including making the illicit
trade non-bailable.

Specifically, Marcos and Nograles want tobacco "both in its raw form
or as finished products" be included as among the agricultural

Under the original law, only included as agricultural commodities are
rice, sugar, corn, pork, poultry, garlic, onion, carrots, fish and
"cruciferous vegetables."

The law states that a large-scale smuggling of any of these
agricultural products is economic sabotage, a heinous crime.

Under the proposed bill, cigarette smugglers face a minimum of 30
years imprisonment but not exceeding 40 years with no bail

At the same time, violators are obliged to settle a fine double the
value of the seized smuggled items, plus the total amount of unpaid
duties, and other taxes.

The present law provides that persons or firms caught in possession of
cigarette products that did not settle excise taxes face an
imprisonment of 10 to 12 years imprisonment only.

The same law further provides that a person caught with smuggled
cigarettes will be fined 10 times the value of the payable excise
taxes or not less than p1 million and a minimum of five years

"There is an urgent need to combat large-scale tobacco smuggling by
imposing more stringent penalties and deter the entry and sale of
illegal tobacco in the Philippines," the bill proponents said.

During his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), President
Bongbong Marcos declared war against rampant smuggling, and ordered
authorities to curb immediately the economic menace within their

In their explanatory note, the lawmakers said the urgency of
addressing this issue is a "growing threat," since cigarette smuggling
deprives government billions of pesos annually in revenues.

Citing various government statistics, Marcos noted the fact that
government is losing from P30 billion to P60 billion annually in
revenues due to cigarette smuggling.

For instance, they said, in 2020, the government allotted P150 billion
to address the Covid-19 pandemic, and another P149 billion last year.
both funds were taken from the cigarette excise tax

They further said that in several parts of the country, notably in
Zamboanga del Sur and Misamis Occidental, 60 percent of the cigarettes
sold in the market come from illegal sources.

Even in the turf of the Marcoses, the Ilocos Region, considered as the
tobacco-producing, the legislators added, 10 percent of the cigarettes
being sold are illicit.
"If the entry and sale of smuggled cigarettes continues unrestricted,
the national government stands to lose even more revenues. this will
be detrimental to its pandemic recovery efforts, clearly, this is one
of the biggest tax leaks that government needs to plug," the lawmakers