Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz of Abakada party-list on Friday denied he singled out Bulacan-based Mighty Corp. (MC) in his letter to the United States Embassy in Manila requesting information on raw tobacco materials imported by local cigarette producers from US suppliers to determine if there was technical smuggling.
“My letter to US Ambassador Philip Goldberg covers other local importers and not just MC, particularly on information pertaining to the import volumes and actual prices of tobacco leaf and acetate tow for the years 2011 thru 2013 from American suppliers,” de la Cruz said.
He issued the denial after media misquoted him for having solely picked on MC that created a bias against the Filipino-owned tobacco company, the subject of bullying by a foreign multinational rival who lost a substantial share of the low-priced cigarette market to the local producer.
In a related development, Rep. Terry Ridon of Kabataan party-list group chided Philip Morris for using Congress to undermine MC and other local tobacco producers.
Ridon urged his colleagues not to allow Philip Morris and its local partner, Fortune Tobacco Corp., to use Congress as a venue for their monopolistic and bullying schemes to control the country’s multibillion-peso tobacco industry.
“As lawmakers, we are duty-bound to protect our local industries against multinationals out to monopolize the tobacco market,” Ridon said, adding that the House Ways and Means Committee should instead look into reports of Philip Morris selling low-priced Marlboro cigarettes in Mindanao and the Visayas despite the fact that Marlboro is a premium brand.
Philip Morris earlier released a Marlboro Flavor Code low-priced variant in Visayas and Mindanao through the approval of an official from the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and later requested the tax agency to allow four additional low-priced Marlboro brands to cover its huge losses, but the BIR reportedly rejected the request.