By Ferdinand Patinio

BUSTED. Customs officers at the Manila International Container Port account for smuggled cigarettes discovered inside three containers during a spot examination on Tuesday (May 14, 2024). The examination yielded a total of 5,268 master cases of assorted cigarettes and heat sticks worth PHP791 million. (Photo courtesy of BOC)

MANILA – The Bureau of Customs (BOC) intercepted a shipment containing some PHP791 million worth of smuggled cigarettes from Singapore at the Manila International Container Port (MICP).

The three containers carrying the contraband were subjected to a spot examination on Tuesday, after these were intercepted at the MICP over the weekend.

In a statement, Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS) director Verne Enciso said the examination yielded a total of 5,268 master cases of assorted cigarettes and heat sticks of varied brands such as Golden, Bind, Double Happiness, H&P One, COO and Like Premium Bluberry. 

He said the goods were consigned to Burias Jang Consumer Goods Trading and were initially declared to contain cases of tobacco products.

However, the CIIS received “derogatory information” which led to the suspicion that it also contained illegal, misdeclared and undeclared items.

Upon receiving the report from the CIIS-MICP Field Station, District Collector Mimel Talusan issued an alert order against the shipment.

As an answer to President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr ‘s directive, the BOC will continue working to get to the bottom of tobacco smuggling, Customs Commissioner Bienvenido Rubio said.

“It is evident with this latest operation that smuggling activities continue to prey upon unsuspecting consumers. We have strict tobacco importation laws that aim to protect our citizens from unnecessary harm by illegally traded and imported cigarette products,” Rubio added.

Upon verification with the National Tobacco Administration (NTA), it was discovered that the consignee of record is not a registered importer of tobacco and other tobacco-related products, in violation of NTA Board Resolution 079-2005.

The tobacco products do not bear mandatory printed graphic health warnings on their packaging, which is a violation of Republic Act (RA) 11900 or the Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Products Regulation Act of 2022 as implemented by the Department of Trade and Industry, Administrative Order No. 22-16 series of 2022 and RA 10643 or the Graphic Health Warnings Law of 2014.

The shipment’s consigners and consignees can face charges for violating Section 117 (regulated importation and exportation) and Section 1400 (misdeclaration in goods declaration) in relation to Section 1113 (property subject to seizure and forfeiture) of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.

They will also face charges in accordance with RA 8293, otherwise known as the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines; RA10963 or the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act; and NTA Board Resolution No. 079-2005 (amended rules and regulations governing the exportation and importation of leaf tobacco and tobacco products). (PNA)