Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano 3rd has deplored the continued use of unsubstantiated data by foreign monopolists as he supported Deputy Speaker Sergio Apostol’s urgent call to use only official information in formulating policies to safeguard the country’s economic interest in the multibillion-peso tobacco industry.
“Over six million people, including farmers and other beneficiaries, are dependent on the tobacco industry and we should not allow these unscrupulous foreigners to undermine their interest,” Albano said.
“In particular, I am referring to the dirty tactics persistently employed by Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corp. [PMFTC] against its local rivals, using baseless and extrapolated information after it lost a substantial share of its dominant market due to the implementation of the Sin Tax Law,” he pointed out.
Albano was reacting to a recent media briefing where PMFTC was said to have caused the release of a study commissioned by its mother company—Philip Morris Incorporated—showing that some local tobacco cigarette companies are allegedly engaged in illicit trade.
He said PMFTC was pushed to the wall by the growth of local manufacturers and it has inhibited itself from increasing prices despite the fact that there has been a P5 per pack increase in January of 2014.
“What is surprising is that these foreign cigarette producers operating in the country have not been subjected to the same vetting done to local manufacturers,” Albano said.
Raneo Abu of the 2nd District of Batangas, the vice chairman of the ways and means committee, reiterated what he manifested during the Congressional Oversight Committee on the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program on March 12, 2014 that government agencies cannot use newspaper reports to go after cigarette companies said to be engaging in illicit trade.
“We cannot rely on newspaper clippings alone. We cannot rely on some innuendos. We cannot rely on incomplete data coming from some media publications. We need the formal data coming from different agencies of the government because that is the data; that is the legal document,” Abu said amid pressures exerted by cigarette companies for Congress to investigate their rivals for alleged illicit trade activities reported in some newspapers.
He said this in support of Deputy Speaker’s Rep. Sergio Apostol appeal to their peers in the House to rely only on official government records.
“I urged my peers to use only official records from the government, such as those from the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs to formulate the right policies for the public good,” Apostol said, addressing his colleagues who want to investigate cigarette companies for various charges.
Apostol also emphasized that “Congress represents the will of the people and therefore it should not allow these foreign monopolists to dictate their terms on us and in the process, destroy our own local industries.”