BOC chief leads meeting with tobacco companies to fight illicit tobacco trade

July 29, 2023 People's Tonight 170 views

BUREAU of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Bien Rubio led a meeting with executives of Philip Morris International (PMI) and Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corp. (PMFTC) to develop strategies in further improving the fight against illicit tobacco trade.

Rubio was joined by Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS) Director Verne Enciso and Intellectual Property Rights Division (IPRD) Chief Paul Oliver Pacunayen.

For the part of Philip Morris, the company was represented by Rodney Van Dooren, head of PMI’s Illicit Trade Prevention; Erdie Ambrocio, PMFTC Illicit Trade Prevention Manager for Luzon; and Steve Lamosao, PMFTC Illicit Trade Prevention Executive for Visayas.

“Illegal traders who attempt to gamble with our laws will find our Customs agents are one step ahead of them. That has always been our goal and our mandate—to put these smugglers away and make them accountable, answerable and ultimately, face the consequences of what they do,” Rubio said.

“So, in this meeting, we identified the gaps in our strategies. These groups have been very creative and aggressive in entering our markets so our cooperation with tobacco companies is aimed at answering these with even more comprehensive methods to intercept their modus,” he added.

Enciso said the discussion mainly focused on addressing the proliferation of illicit tobacco products in the market.

“It is important for us to recognize that these are not only very real threats, but that there are well-orchestrated plans aimed at circumventing our laws. Our cooperation with companies and organizations put in place proper mechanisms to secure our borders and curb the illicit trade of tobacco,” he stressed.

During the meeting, the BOC received commendation for its recent operation in Indanan, Sulu, where 19,000 cases of alleged smuggled cigarettes—with an estimated market value of P1.425 billion—were seized.

This impressive feat was made possible through the diligent efforts of the Intelligence Group, headed by Deputy Commissioner Juvymax Uy.

Uy emphasized how working together with the private sector and organizations can help the bureau’s intelligence division.

“For the part of the intelligence community, our work involved combing through the many information we receive and making sure we act in as swift a way as possible. But it also behooves us to analyze the data accurately so that when it comes to prosecuting these individuals and groups, there is no loophole they can use,” he said.

Rubio also reiterated the bureau’s commitment to safeguarding the nation’s borders and upholding its core mandates.

Under his leadership, the BOC remains steadfast in preventing the entry of illicit tobacco products into the country, safeguarding public health, and protecting legitimate businesses.

The BOC, PMI, and PMFTC expressed their commitment to work closely together, sharing intelligence and expertise to effectively combat the illicit trade of tobacco.

The collaboration aims to create a formidable alliance against those involved in these illegal activities, ensuring the integrity of the tobacco industry and promoting a fair and competitive market.