Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III

MANILA -- The Philippine government’s drive against illicit cigarette trade is seen to get a boost from the scheduled visit of President Rodrigo R. Duterte in China later this month.

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Philippines and China’s customs officials is scheduled to be signed during that visit as part of trade discussions.

He explained that they are of the belief that most of the cigarette-making machines confiscated in the raids conducted by joint forces from the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) came from China.

“We are going to engage with them and say please you should know that the importation of any cigarette making machine needs prior government approval so if you know that this is a cigarette-making machine please don’t give it an export permit,” he said.

The Finance chief said these machines may have been declared as parts of tractors or air-conditioning systems that is why these pass customs scrutiny.

He also noted that China has many ports, thus, monitoring might be an issue.

“But we are formalizing our engagement with them and we will be signing an MOU between BOC and the Chinese counterparts,” he said.

The Philippine government has strengthened the drive against illicit cigarettes in a bid to collect revenues and run after erring businessmen.

The drive against illegal cigarette manufacturing has resulted in raids of factories in Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, and Bacolod City, among others, and confiscation of millions-worth of cigarettes.

Aside from running after erring businessmen, the government also pushed for increase in cigarette taxes in a bid to lessen the number of people affected by diseases caused by smoking and alcohol consumption. (PNA)