A National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agent checks the reams of cigarettes that were confiscated by authorities in Cagayan de Oro on Thursday, March 7. (Photo by Jigger J. Jerusalem)
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Authorities confiscated truckloads of cigarettes estimated to be worth PHP60 million bearing fake Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) stamps inside a warehouse in Barangay Kauswagan on Thursday.
Nolan Gadia, special investigator of National Bureau of Investigation in Region 10 (NBI-10), said the cigarettes bore markings of brands belonging to cigarette makers Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corp. (PMFTC) and Japan Tobacco Industry (JTI).
Gadia said the raid was conducted by a joint team of BIR and NBI-10 operatives based on a tip provided by an informant.
The cigarettes were stocked in a warehouse fronting the national highway in Kauswagan.
Alberto Daba, regional investigation division chief for BIR Revenue Region 16, said that based on their findings, most of the boxes of cigarettes bore illegal stamps while others don’t have any.
Daba said the country is losing millions of pesos due to the proliferation of illegal items such as cigarettes, as their manufacturers do not pay taxes to the government.
Among the brands that were confiscated were More, Marvels, Mighty, and Fort.
A representative from Philip Morris Philippines Manufacturing, Inc. and Fortune Tobacco Corporation confirmed that some of the cigarettes have the markings of their company.
“We found out that these cigarettes are counterfeit, and not from our company,” said a representative who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak by the company.
Gadia said the cigarettes were contained in appliance boxes and sacks.
“These cigarettes are sold cheap as the makers do not pay taxes,” Gadia said.
He said the persons behind the manufacturing of these cigarettes are believed to be Chinese nationals.
Meanwhile, the Department of Finance (DOF) has warned local government officials who do not act on the illegal cigarette manufacturing and other related activities in their localities.
In a DOF statement posted on the agency’s website, Finance Sec. Carlos Dominguez III ordered the BIR to coordinate with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) in filing charges against local government executives found responsible for “neglecting to check the presence of, if not tolerating, illicit tobacco trade activities in their respective communities.”
“We should charge them for not doing their job,” Dominguez was quoted as saying.