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Customs bureau seizes P20-M smuggled cigars

September 12, 2020

THE unrelenting anti-smuggling operation of the Bureau of Customs-10 (BOC-10) has resulted to the confiscation and destruction of P20.7 million worth of illegally imported cigarettes last Wednesday, September 9. Among those seized bore the brand names Union, Bravo, Famous, Farstar, Septwolves, YS, San Marino, Cannon. John Simon, BOC-10 district collector, said the contraband consisted of 2,150 reams or 188,824 of various brands. The cigarettes entered the port of Ozamiz in Ozamiz City and Mindanao Container Terminal sub-port in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental on two occasions, on August 25, 2020 and Sept. 1, 2020, Simon said. “We don’t want cigarettes that are illegal and are sold here in Northern Mindanao,” Simon said. The confiscated cigarettes were destroyed through a shredding machine at the Greenleaf 88 non-hazardous waste disposal facility in Barangay Bayabas, this city. Simon said the items were confiscated as the consignees failed to pay duties and taxes and in violation of Republic Act 10836 or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act. The BOC-10, however, has yet to identify the names of the consignees, but Simon said they will be facing charges once their identities are established. Oliver Valiente, chief of the BOC-10’s Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service, the contraband came from China and neighboring Asian countries that entered through the Zamboanga Peninsula. According to the Department of Finance, consignees use a new smuggling scheme to sneak the illegal cigarettes into the country. Citing a report from BOC Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero, Finance Sec. Carlos Dominguez III said P53 million-worth of cigarettes contained in two container vans that were recently confiscated in the port of Davao on July 12, 2020 came from Ningbo, China and was declared as tissue paper. When the cargo reached its final destination in the port of Davao, Guerrero said “the containers of smuggled cigarettes were not included in its inward foreign manifest despite other customs documents proving the existence of the shipment.”

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IQOS stores open in Metro Manila

September 4, 2020

Philip Morris International opened today its first four IQOS stores in Metro Manila offering Filipino adult smokers 21 years old and above a smoke-free alternative to cigarettes.   Located at the Eastwood Mall in Libis, Quezon City, SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City, SM Southmall in Las Piñas City, and Estancia Mall in Pasig City, the stores carry IQOS devices, heat sticks and accessories.  IQOS devices use a patented heat-control technology that precisely heats tobacco-filled sticks wrapped in paper, without the burning, to release a water-based aerosol – not smoke. “Opening the first IQOS stores in the Philippines is a significant step towards achieving our vision of a smoke-free future. PMFTC’s vision is to help adult smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke to move away from cigarettes as quickly as possible and switch to a better alternative,” PMFTC’s President said Denis Gorkun, President PMFTC Inc., the local affiliate of PMI. “We see smoke-free products as an opportunity to reduce the smoking incidence in the Philippines for the benefit of the public health and society at large,” Gorkun said. There are an estimated 16 million smokers in the Philippines, and globally, despite strict tobacco control measures, the World Health Organization estimates that there will still be a billion smokers in 2025, the same level as today.  PMI invested more than USD$7 billion on research, development and production capabilities to create smoke-free products. Recently, the United States Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) authorized the marketing of IQOS and heat sticks in the US with a reduced exposure claim, adding that its issuance of such order is appropriate for the promotion of public health.  IQOS is the first heated tobacco product to receive that exposure modification order in the US. “The US FDA decision shows that IQOS is a fundamentally different tobacco product compared to cigarettes and a better choice for adults who would otherwise continue smoking,” said Gorkun. To ensure that only legal age consumers 21 years old and above will have access to the store, the e-commerce website and the tobacco products, Gorkun said, “We are implementing age verification and access restriction. Presentation of a valid government-issued ID is required before any product is handed over to the consumer.”  “The best thing a smoker can do is to quit cigarettes and nicotine products entirely. But the hard reality is there will be adults who would continue to smoke. For those who don’t choose to quit, we now have a product that does not burn tobacco,” PMFTC Communications Director Dave Gomez said. “Public health experts agree that burning or combustion is the main problem in people getting sick from smoking. Nicotine although not risk-free and is addictive, is not the main cause of smoking-related diseases. It’s the smoke,” Gomez added. PMFTC research showed that 60 percent of current Filipino adult smokers are willing to try smoke-free alternatives as long as they are made commercially available and meet quality production standards. Unlike cigarettes, IQOS does not burn tobacco and therefore produces no smoke and no ash. IQOS HeatControl™ Technology heats tobacco instead of burning it to deliver the true taste of real tobacco. Gorkun said when using IQOS, the aerosol dissipates more quickly than cigarette smoke. “As IQOS produces less lingering smell than cigarettes, it is less likely to bother people around you,” he added.  Last 24 April 2020, HEETS for use with the IQOS device, were made available to legal age users 21 years old and above through select tobacconists/retail stores such as FUMA, Lighters Galore, Green Puff and DJ Shop in Metro Manila.  Last August 7, 2020, the heat sticks were also made available in select 7/11 branches in Metro Manila. On June 5, 2020, the IQOS.COM website was launched where the IQOS devices, as well as the heat sticks and device accessories, were offered.  Committed to ensure that access to the IQOS devices and heat sticks is only limited to adult consumers 21 years old and above who wish to continue using tobacco products or other nicotine-containing products, the IQOS stores practice age verification and adhere to the Good Conversion Practices which is a global standard observed across PMI.

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Law enforcement agencies boost capacity on illicit trade prevention

August 28, 2020

The Philippine Tobacco Institute (PTI) initiated a series of forum in the regions to raise the level of awareness and information on the adverse impact of illicit trade of counterfeit products in the community and economy. The undertaking was in collaboration with various government law enforcement agencies. It also focused on ways to prevent and restrain the entry and proliferation of fake products that pose major economic threat against legitimate products. PTI stressed its commitment to its stakeholders towards regaining revenue loss, curbing the proliferation of illicit cigarettes, and promoting fair and sustainable business practices. A two-day capacity building and forum was recently conducted with the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in Davao City, attended by personnel belonging to customs intelligence, enforcement and security, assessment and examiners. Davao Port Collector Dino Austria said the discussion boosted the region’s customs intelligence in watching out for illicit products, especially on smuggled and fake cigarettes, citing that the illegal activities heightened even during the pandemic period.  Austria extended his full support in curbing illicit cigarettes, saying he will not allow the entry of spurious products that deprive the government of customs duties and taxes. He is looking forward to more partnership with the private sector particularly on intelligence and technical support in curtailing entry of illicit cigarettes. During the current lockdown period starting in March, there were a total of 38 law enforcement actions through raids, seizures, confiscation of smuggled and counterfeit cigarettes, including the closure of illegal warehouses and factories and destruction of machines and equipment used by the unlawful traders. A similar event was held in Butuan City in collaboration with the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) led by Caraga Regional Chief Choli Jun Caduyac. The CIDG chief stressed to his men the importance of safeguarding their jurisdiction and putting a stop to the rise of illicit cigarettes in the region as he cited the two illegal cigarette factories that were foiled by the team in 2018. The capacity-building initiative shall help participants which include intelligence operatives and provincial CIDG heads in gaining technical skills in the detection of illicit actions for successful enforcement and eventual filing of cases against the perpetrators in the courts. The CIDG team were provided an overview of the legal framework on enforcement actions, which include items and documents to watch out, red flags and inconsistencies that could be checked on incoming contrabands. In the Province of Cebu , a Basic Product Authentication training was conducted with the Lapu-lapu City Police Office attended by police officers of the different stations upon the instruction of Police Colonel Clarito C. Baja. The law enforcers were given an overview of the illicit cigarette trade and the prevalence of the unlawful business operations in the Visayas region. They were trained on how to spot a counterfeit cigarette product to boost their knowledge and confidence in their enforcement. PTI emphasizes that the lack of tax stamps and graphic health warnings is a sure sign that cigarette products are illicit.   Untaxed cigarettes should removed from the domestic market to protect much needed government revenues.  For the January-to-June period, excise taxes collected on tobacco products reached P61.5 billion.

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Philip Morris’ electrically heated tobacco system gets US-FDA nod

July 9, 2020

THE U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized the marketing of IQOS, Philip Morris International’s (PMI) electrically heated tobacco system, as a modified risk tobacco product (MRTP).  In doing so, the US FDA found that an IQOS exposure modification order is appropriate to promote the public health.  The decision demonstrates that IQOS is a fundamentally different tobacco product and a better choice for adults who would otherwise continue smoking.  IQOS is the first and only electronic nicotine product to be granted marketing orders through the FDA’s MRTP process.  “The FDA’s decision is a historic public health milestone. Many of the tens of millions of American men and women who smoke today will quit—but many won’t. Today’s decision makes it possible to inform these adults that switching completely to IQOS is a better choice than continuing to smoke, “André Calantzopoulos, PMI’s Chief Executive Officer, said.  “IQOS is a fundamentally different product than combustible cigarettes and must be regulated differently, as the FDA has recognized. Now—more than ever—there is an urgent need for a fundamentally different conversation on a cooperative approach to achieve a smoke-free future. The FDA’s decision provides an important example of how governments and public health organizations can regulate smoke-free alternatives to differentiate them from cigarettes in order to promote the public health,” Calantzopoulos added. The FDA authorized the marketing of IQOS with the following information:  1. The IQOS System heats tobacco but does not burn it  2. This significantly reduces the production of harmful and potentially harmful chemicals  3. Scientific studies have shown that switching completely from conventional cigarettes to the IQOS system reduces your body’s exposure to harmful or potentially harmful chemicals.  The agency concluded that the available scientific evidence demonstrates that IQOS is expected to benefit the health of the population as a whole, taking into account both users of tobacco products and persons who do not currently use tobacco products  The FDA’s decision further builds on the emerging independent international scientific consensus that IQOS is a better choice than continuing to smoke, and follows the FDA’s April 2019 decision authorizing the commercialization of IQOS in the U.S.  The FDA’s decision provides an important example of how governments and public health organizations can regulate smoke-free alternatives to differentiate them from cigarettes in order to protect and promote the public health  This decision follows a review of the extensive scientific evidence package PMI submitted to the FDA in December 2016 to support its MRTP applications.  The PMI CEO further said “We are excited that this important decision will help guide the choices of adult smokers in the U.S. The best choice for health is to never start smoking or to quit altogether. For those who don’t quit, the best thing they can do is switch to a scientifically substantiated smoke-free product. As of March 31, 2020, PMI estimates that approximately 10.6 million adult smokers around the world have already stopped smoking and switched to IQOS. We believe that this decision can help to further accelerate the transition of U.S. adults away from cigarettes. We, along with our licensee Altria, are committed to guarding against unintended use and fully support FDA’s focus on protecting youth.” “Today’s decision is a result of our ongoing commitment to put science at the forefront as we continue on our quest to replace cigarettes with smoke-free alternatives as quickly as possible. We look forward to working with the FDA to provide any additional information they may require in order to market IQOS with reduced risk claims. Harnessing innovations like IQOS to dramatically speed-up the decline in cigarette smoking is the opportunity of this century. Comprehensive, science-based regulation can help to rapidly shift adult smokers who would otherwise continue smoking to better options, while simultaneously guarding against unintended consequences,” the PMI executive stressed. The MRTP marketing orders were issued pursuant to a 2009 law that empowers FDA to regulate tobacco products, including through oversight of innovative tobacco products.  PMI submitted MRTP applications for the IQOS device and three HeatStick variants: Marlboro HeatSticks, Marlboro Smooth Menthol HeatSticks, and Marlboro Fresh Menthol HeatSticks.  On April 30, 2019, the FDA authorized IQOS for sale in the U.S. through issuance of premarket tobacco authorization marketing orders that deemed the marketing of the product appropriate for the protection of public health.  On March 30, 2020, PMI submitted a supplemental premarket tobacco product application for the IQOS 3 tobacco heating device with the FDA.

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Normin tourism suffers P1-B losses from Covid

May 18, 2020

 NORTHERN Mindanao's tourism sector has been one of the hardest-hit by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, with losses reaching as high as more than P1 billion.     This assessment was made by the National Economic and Development Authority in Region 10 (NEDA-10) on Friday, based on the tourism outputs the region reported in the previous year.     NEDA-10 director Myla Fe Cariño said that between March 15 to April 30, the estimated losses to the tourism sector could reach P905,313,492 from domestic tourists, and P61,184,124 from foreign visitors, totaling to P966,497,616.     But since the extension of general community quarantine (GCQ) in different cities and provinces in the region, NEDA-10 estimates that from March 15 to May 15, the region will have recorded losses of up to P1,354,811,064 from domestic tourists, and P85,705,045 from foreign tourists, for a total of P1,440,516,109.     "This was also based on our previous data, which estimates that local tourists usually spend P2,117 per day, and the foreigners spend PHP5,497 daily," Cariño said.     Even after the quarantine is lifted in the region, she said the tourism industry will still have to cope with the losses while adjusting to the "new normal" arrangements.     "Based on the national survey, only 24 percent have expressed to travel to go on vacation, while 74 percent are not going. Other than that, hotels and resorts need to reconfigure their accommodation to comply with DOH (Department of Health) protocols, which means all rooms are only for single occupancy. Can you imagine if there is a family of four on vacation?" Cariño said.     Cariño said the economy can only fully recover when Covid-19 vaccines are already available.     Lanex Bregonos, owner of Zyll's Airlines Booking Office here, said that since the community quarantine was imposed on March 15, his airplane ticket sales are virtually non-existent.     "I am currently making ends meet with my savings, I am waiting for the reopening of flights even just for domestic destinations," he said, saying he has no alternative means of income as of the moment. (PNA)

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Davao Region posts lower fish production in 2019

May 18, 2020

DAVAO City -- Fish catch in Davao Region decreased by 7.2 percent, or 48,245.89 metric tons (MT) in 2019 from 51,983.43 MT in 2018, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).     The region’s fish catch last year was the lowest since 2015, when it recorded a production of 59,498.46 MT.     Of the total regional fisheries output last year, 49.8 percent came from aquaculture, 45 percent from municipal fisheries (marine and inland), and 5.2 percent from commercial fisheries.     Commercial fishing reported the biggest decline in production at 28.8-percent, from 3,498.54 MT in 2018 to 2,490.76 MT in 2019.     The biggest chunk in commercial fishing came from Davao City, comprising 50.8-percent. Davao Oriental followed with 37.0 percent, Davao Occidental with 8.6-percent, and Davao del Sur with 2.6-percent.     The PSA said the provinces of Davao del Norte and Davao de Oro have no commercial fishing operations.     It added the region’s commercial species with most volume of production in 2019 were yellowfin tuna estimated at 910.57 MT; roundscad, 299.28 MT; big-eye tuna, 268.92 MT; frigate tuna, 224.96 MT.     The municipal fisheries of Davao Region posted 21,704.67 MT, a reduction of 6.1 percent from 23,120.86 MT in 2018. Of this total, 98.1 percent came from marine fisheries and the rest inland fisheries.     In terms of municipal fisheries production, Davao Oriental accounted for 42.1-percent; Davao Occidental, 39.3 percent; Davao del Sur, 9.6 percent; Davao del Norte and Davao de Oro shared 3.8-percent a piece; and Davao City, 1.5-percent.     Marine municipal fisheries production likewise declined, registering a production of 21,455.32 MT in 2019 or a decrease of 6.2 percent from 22,876.92 MT in 2018.     Aquaculture declined by 5.2-percent, registering a production of 24,050.46 MT in 2019 from 25,364.03 MT in 2018.     In aquaculture production Davao del Sur showed a substantial contribution with 46.7 percent, followed by Davao Occidental, 25.3 percent, Davao del Norte, 12.3 percent, Davao City, 8.5-percent, and Davao Oriental, 4.8-percent.

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