P2-B smuggled cigarettes seized

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About P2 billion worth of smuggled and fake cigarettes were seized by government operatives since September last year.

These figures were reported by Japan Tobacco International, whose executive appealed to law enforcers in Visayas and Mindanao to intensify their anti-smuggling campaign against contraband cigarettes that are reportedly being shipped into the cities of Bacolod, Iloilo and Tacloban through Cebu ports.

In response to the JTI disclosure, lawyer Renoir Baldovino, National Bureau of Investigation – Bacolod head,  yesterday said that he is ready to dispatch investigators to check on the alleged entry of fake cigarettes in the city and other areas of Negros Occidental.

Baldovino said he is coordinating with the NBI regional office to start their probe.

JTI Philippines General Manager John Freda said key areas in Visayas and Mindanao have been the traditional backdoor channels for illegal shipment of cigarettes.

The series of seizures in the Vis-Min ports over the past weeks shows that smuggling syndicates are stocking up their supply, the JTIP executive said.

Freda said there is a need for a tighter watch of coastal borders and port cities in central and southern Philippines to prevent  smugglers from  taking advantage of the pandemic.

In Cebu alone, Freda claimed that the Bureau of Customs confiscated  P148 million worth of  smuggled cigarettes in August, and P88.1;million in September.

Recently, he added that Bacolod, Iloilo and Tacloban  have encountered rising incidents of cigarette smuggling.

In September last year, operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, Bureau of Internal Revenue, assisted by local policemen, confiscated 1,400 boxes of fake cigarettes from a warehouse at the BREDCO Port in Bacolod City.

Freda also reported that BOC teams intercepted about P96.6 million worth of illegally-imported cigarettes in the port of Davao.

They also destroyed P50 million worth of contraband cigarettes in Cagayan de Oro City in early October.

Seizures were also recently conducted by law enforcers in the port of Zamboanga where P1.5 billion of illegal cigarettes,  including raw materials were destroyed.

Freda lauded the series of successful operations made by the BOC and BIR in recent months as smuggling incidents became rampant amid the health crisis.

He said illegal tobacco trade is a growing problem in the country, which requires more government attention and “absolute vigilance.”

“Stiffer sanctions are required. We need to see people being caught and brought to justice to deter others from being part of this criminal act,” Freda said.

He said more smuggling attempts are expected during the yuletide months even with the quarantine in effect. GPB

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