IMPORTED cheap cigarette topped the list of most smuggled products in the country, according to a Bureau of Customs (BoC) official.
Customs Assistant Commissioner and concurrent spokesman Vincent Philip Maronilla on Tuesday said unscrupulous importers paid as much as P3 million per 40-footer container of cigarettes in exchange for its facilitation and fast release at the Customs ports.
“Cigarettes have replaced rice and sugar [as the most smuggled goods]. Cigarettes are the new rice and sugar,” he told The Manila Times.
“For a P6-million investment for a shipment of cigarettes, the importer can sell it at the local market for at least P15 million,” he added.
Maronilla explained that a 40-footer container contained at least 1,200 boxes of cigarettes, which were sold for P15,000 each at the local market or a total of P18 million.
“That’s how profitable it is. That is why there are a lot of importers who tried to sneak it into the country, using various ports,” he said.
The surge in cigarette smuggling was brought about by the enactment into law of Republic Act 11346, which raises the excise tax on tobacco products and e-cigarettes.
Locally manufactured cigarettes costs more than P100 per pack, while smuggled cigarettes are sold at only one-fourth of the price.
Maronilla said the smuggled cigarettes usually came from Cambodia and then transhipped to a port in China before being shipped to the Philippines.
From January to August 2020, Customs records showed that more than P3 billion worth of smuggled cigarettes have been seized in different ports.
For the month of August alone, the BoC recorded seven interceptions of illegal cigarettes worth at least P360 million.