By CHINO S. LEYCO
The Department of Finance (DOF) has asked the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to allow the entry of electronic cigarettes into the country as long as these imported tobacco product alternatives comply with Philippine tax laws and regulations.
Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said they are coordinating with the Customs bureau to efficiently facilitate the entry of e-cigarettes or vape products following the enactment of Republic Act (RA) 11346 last January 27.
“Now the BOC just has to issue a new CMO [customs memorandum order] so importation can proceed and we can collect tax pursuant to the new law which took effect on the 27th,” Dominguez told reporters in a mobile phone message.
To recall, the local unit of e-cigarette-maker JUUL Labs, Inc. wrote a letter to Dominguez, informing the finance chief about the delays the company had encountered in the importation of its products into the country.
Mario Zinampan, JUUL Philippines, senior director for government affairs, said the delays were caused by President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s verbal order last year on the ban on e-cigarettes.
But Dominguez said that Customs already issued a CMO after President Duterte’s pronouncements, which did not mention anything about e-cigarettes’ import restrictions.
Zinampan sought the assistance of the DOF in allowing JUUL to proceed with its importations, as he pointed out that RA 11346, which took effect starting January 1 this year, “legitimizes vapor products in the Philippines.”
JUUL products, made by JUUL Labs, are battery-operated devices that look like computer flash drives and contain nicotine salts that do not produce vapor or visible emissions when they are used.
A new sin tax reform law signed by the President last January 22, raised taxes on alcohol products and imposed another round of increases in the taxes for e-cigarettes.
Under RA 11467, a tax of ₱37 per millimeter will be imposed on salt nicotine vapor products in the first year, and additional ₱5 per ml per year until the rate reaches ₱52 per ml in 2024. Thereafter, the tax will be increased by 5 percent every year.
HTPs will be taxed with new rates of ₱25 per pack in 2020, ₱27.50 in 2021, ₱30 in 2022, ₱32.50 in 2023, and 5 percent yearly thereafter.
A tax of ₱45 per 10 milliliter of conventional freebase vapor products will be imposed in 2020, ₱50 in 2021, ₱55 in 2022, ₱60 in 2023. Thereafter, the rate will increase by 5 percent every year.
The law also imposes tax increases on alcohol products.