THE National Tobacco Administration (NTA) has showed support to proposed anti-tobacco smuggling bills.
In a statement, the government body said it is “strongly supporting” the passage of Senate Bill (SB) 1812 and House Bill (HB) 3917. Both bills seek to amend Section 3 and Section 4 of Republic Act (RA) 10845 (Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016) for the inclusion of tobacco, whether manufactured or unmanufactured, including finished products such as cigars, cigarettes or heated tobacco products (HTPs), with a minimum excise tax and VAT payable in the amount of P1 million, in the coverage of large-scale agricultural smuggling as economic sabotage.
The NTA also said that the proposed measures against illicit tobacco trade and smuggling were meant to protect the local tobacco industry and sustain and increase government’s collection of sin taxes.
“Furthermore, tobacco remains as a high-value cash crop, which contributes a huge amount to the farmers’ family income, particularly those in the Ilocos Region,” the NTA said.
A farmer who follows the prescribed tobacco technology earns an average net income of P72,000 per hectare per tobacco season.
On the other hand, the tobacco industry is one of the strongest pillars of the country’s economy and the lifeblood of the North as it provides livelihood and sustenance to at least two million people including the 600,000 tobacco farmers and their families, the NTA said.
ACCORDING to the NTA, the industry also generates on the average about P120 billion in revenues annually, “which immensely helps the government fund its education, health, welfare, infrastructure, and economic programs.”
A portion of the excise tax collection is given back to tobacco-producing provinces and municipalities, in accordance with RA 7171 and 8240, as amended by RA 10351.
The NTA said that the tobacco industry in the country continues to dominate the agricultural, economic social and political aspects of the country.
Among the non-food crops in the agriculture sector, tobacco has been grown commercially, steadily contributing to the economy, and to the government’s efforts toward economic growth and recovery.
“But, one of the identified critical issues and concerns of the Philippine tobacco industry that needs to be addressed is illegal cigarette trading and smuggling,” the NTA said.
Thus, the NTA said, it is in solidarity with the proponents of the proposed measures as these would solutions to the curbing of tobacco smuggling and illicit tobacco trading/agricultural smuggling in the country.
DEPUTY House Speaker Kristine Singson-Meehan also expressed support for the approval of the bill.
“As a representative of a tobacco producing province, I support this bill [that] could help curb the illicit trade of tobacco that is now been proliferating in the country and as a consequence negatively impacts our local tobacco industry, especially our tobacco farmers.”
“Smuggled and illicit cigarettes often do not use local tobacco leaf but eat up a big share in the market affecting demand for local leaf, hurting the legitimate industry upon which farmers and workers depend for livelihood and also depriving the government of revenues,” Singson-Meehan told reporters over the weekend.
In November last year, Japan Tobacco International (JTI) Philippines General Manager John Freda has expressed support for the approval of the proposal.
“We believe that the bill, if passed into law, will serve as a strong deterrent against smugglers and counterfeiters of tobacco products and will help stem the tide of illicit trade in this country,” Freda said.