By Chino S. Leyco
The Chinese counterpart of the Philippine Customs bureau has committed to help in stopping exports of unauthorized cigarette-making machines into the country as the Duterte administration stepped -up its campaign against the illicit tobacco trade.
Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero said he reiterated to the Chinese vice minister of the General Administration of Customs of China (GACC) the Philippines’ concern over the export of unauthorized cigarette-making machines.
“I asked them if they could stop such exportations on their part because this is creating problems as far we’re concerned,” Guerrero said in his report to Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III during a recent meeting.
Guerrero said the Chinese Customs officials agreed “to look into the matter.”
Earlier, Dominguez directed the Customs and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) 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.
The Finance chief issued the order after confirming with BIR Commissioner Caesar Dulay that the illegal tobacco trade has shifted from smuggling cigarettes to producing locally counterfeit brands using undocumented cigarette-making machines acquired from China.
Based on previous raids conducted by the BIR, they discovered that counterfeiters are able to manufacture fake versions of popular brands using smaller, more portable versions of the machines and devices for making cigarettes.
Just last May 29, the BIR Strike Team tasked to crack down on the illicit tobacco trade conducted an inventory of machines, finished goods, raw materials and counterfeit tax stamps seized by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) at a factory in Marilao, Bulacan.
Unscrupulous traders have apparently switched to manufacturing their own counterfeit cigarettes in lieu of smuggling legitimate products following the heightened joint BIR-BOC drive against suppliers of tobacco products with fake tax stamps, which was in compliance with Dominguez’s earlier orders.