House Deputy Speaker and Ilocos Sur Rep. Deogracias Victor Savellano on Monday, Sept. 13 appealed for a more sustained and stronger government efforts in addressing the illicit cigarette trade in many parts of the country.
Savellano said that while various government law enforcement agencies have demonstrated sincerity in addressing the problem, illegal tobacco trade is still happening in many parts of the country.
He said illegal trade of cigarettes is a “lucrative business” that “hounds the tobacco industry - an industry that supports and provides livelihood to millions of Filipinos and contributes billions of pesos to the government. Citing data from the National Tobacco Administration, Savellano disclosed that as much as 2.2 million Filipinos derive direct income from farming, trading, manufacturing and distribution of tobacco products.
The industry, he disclosed, has contributed P148.5 billion to government coffers last year to fund social and health services.
According to him the excise tax revenues from tobacco products grew nearly five times more from the P32 billion in 2012 to P148.5 billion in 2020.
For 2021, the target revenues could reach P177 billion, Savellano disclosed.
Savellano, who represents the tobacco-producing province of Ilocos Sur, warned that unless immediate steps are taken to stop illegal tobacco gtrade practices, government stand to lose huge amounts in taxes that should go to public health programs.
“A good chunk of this excise tax collections is allocated to the Department of Health”s Universal Health Care program. It is not by coincidence that the Department of Health’s budget has substantially increased from P42.2 billion in 2012 to P134.45 billion this year, -representing a 220percent increase,” he said.
“It is also not an accident that the country’s National Health Insurance Program which covers the enrollment and coverage of indigent families, senior citizens, unemployed persons with disability and financially-challenged point-of-service patients, gets subtantial support -receiving P71.35 billion this year. It is not by chance that 100 percent of Filipinos are now covered by our national health insurance,” the House official explained.
Savellano reiterated that the unlawful activities in the industry could trigger “losses in billions of pesos in government tax revenues, legitimate business are undermined and consumers are exposed to poorly made unregulated products.” He also lauded the efforts by various government law enforcement agencies in their continuous efforts to go after th perpetrators.
Savellano said the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Bureau of Customs, Philippine National Police, the PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, National Bureau of Investigation and Detection Group, National Bureau of Investigation and the Armed Forces of the Philippines for their “untiring initiatives.” But while Savellano lauded the successful operations of concerned agencies, Savellano also appealed to all revenue and law enforcement agencies to be unrelenting in the fight against illegal cigarette trade activities, saying that local government units should also cooperate in ensuring the success of the program.