Cigarette maker rebuts fake stamps allegation

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Mighty Corporation (MC), the country’s only Filipino-owned cigarette manufacturer fighting competition against a “monopolistic” multinational tobacco company, on Thursday strongly denied it is using fake stamps in its operation.

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“Our operation is transparent and closely monitored by revenue authorities from sourcing of raw materials to manufacturing and withdrawals of cigarettes,” according to retired regional court judge Oscar Barrientos, MC executive vice president and spokesman.

“In fact” he said in a statement, “our company’s operation is the only one monitored by close-circuit cameras required by the Bureau of Internal Revenue [BIR] and it’s also on record that MC has spearheaded the campaign all over the country against the proliferation of fake cigarettes using fake stamps.”

Barrientos reacted to a headline story run by the Philippine Daily Inquirer in its January 25, 2017 issue under the byline of its reporter, Ben O. de Vera, quoting BIR Commissioner Cesar Dulay that “BIR is investigating homegrown cigarette manufacturer Mighty Corp. for allegedly using fake tax stamps on its products.”

He said MC has not received any notice of investigation by the BIR and if ever there will be, “we are prepared for it as our records are always open for scrutiny by the BIR.”

“We are hoping that if ever this is done, the BIR should include in its investigation not only local manufacturers but also multinational companies and their local partners who are known for importing large quantities of raw materials without paying correct taxes to the prejudice of our local farmers,” Barrientos added.

“It’s on record that as early as two years ago, Mighty has coordinated with the BIR, the Bureau of Customsthe police and the National Bureau of Investigation in the seizure of fake Mighty cigarettes and other brands and the arrest and indictment of persons involved in the smuggling, manufacturing and marketing of contraband cigarettes,” he said.

According to Barrientos, Mighty has been subjected to unfair publicity by its rivals after its products, known for what he described as “smooth and superior blending,” eat a large share of their market in the low-priced category once dominated by multinational rivals who remit abroad a large part of their income to the prejudice of the Philippine economy.

Two years ago, a ranking member of Congress requested then-Customs Commissioner John Sevilla to look into the “highly irregular” release of 500 containers of raw materials for the manufacturing of cigarettes from the Customs zone in Manila.

The investigation, involving a multinational company, was allegedly never heard from again.

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