Sen. Cynthia Villar has reiterated that tobacco is included in the agricultural products covered by her proposed Anti-Agricultural Economic Sabotage Act of 2023.
She said this law will amend the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act to include hoarding, profiteering and cartel of agricultural products as economic sabotage.
“And Tobacco will be included in the agricultural products covered by this law,”said Villar who was Guest Speaker in the International Tobacco Agricultural Summit held at Shangri-La in BGC, Taguig City today,Aug. 3.
The senator noted that it is her advocacy to support Filipino farmers as they are the ‘backbone’ of the Philippine agriculture sector.
She likewise acknowledged the tobacco industry plays a vital role in the economy of the Philippines, being one of the world’s largest tobacco producers.
The National Tobacco Administration said the tobacco industry significantly contributes to employment and revenue generation in the country, supporting around 2.2 million Filipinos directly or indirectly
“According to the Oxford Business Group’s Economic Impact Report in June 2022, tobacco cultivation was present in 23 provinces across 12 regions in the Philippines, with the Ilocos Region being the top producer at 69%, followed by Cagayan Valley at 23%, and Northern Mindanao ranking third, as of April 2022,” related Villar.
She said the industry’s significance to rural economies is highlighted by a 47.8% increase in the area planted for tobacco between 2019 and 2022.
The sin taxes for tobacco and alcohol implemented since 2013, now funds the national health budget, including Universal Health Care (UHC).
Sin tax revenue, primarily from tobacco collections (mainly cigarettes), accounted for 58% of all sin tax collections and comprised 54% of the health budget in 2020.
The tobacco industry contributed nearly 16 billion pesos to the country’s GDP in 2021.
However, Villar cited that the industry faces threats from illegal trade like smuggling and tax evasion. The Bureau of Customs (BOC) estimated a loss of P3 billion in excise taxes from illicit cigarette operations between 2019 and 2022.
As reported by Euromonitor, the incidence of illicit cigarette trade is projected to increase from 12.2% in 2020 to 18.5% in 2023.
The senator also pointed out that smuggling undermines the livelihood of these farmers by saturating the market with cheap, adulterated, and untaxed products.
This illicit competition leads to reduced prices and demand for locally grown tobacco, resulting in income loss among our farmers.
“This is the reason why as the Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, this 19th Congress, I filed bills in response to the issues of smuggling,” Villar added.
In 2016, we passed the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act. Unfortunately, not a single smuggler has been imprisoned since then Thus, we are amending this law'” she further stated.