Stricter penalties vs cigarette smuggling pushed

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — Former PBA Partylist Representative Jericho Nograles on Friday stressed that he is pushing for the approval of a senate bill that will provide heftier penalties for entities engaged in illicit cigarette trade.

During a speech at the Lighthouse Hotel here, Nograles said that cigarette smuggling should be classified as economic sabotage and make the commission of this crime non-bailable with a heftier punishment and fine.

The former lawmaker emphasized the importance of the approval of Senate Bill 1812 authored by Senator Lito Lapid in the wake of the recent raids of smuggled cigarettes in Indanan, Sulu, which he dubbed as the “biggest confiscation in Philippine history.”

SB 1812 seeks to amend Republic Act 10845, the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016 to include tobacco products among “agricultural commodities” and classify smuggling of tobacco products as economic sabotage and a non-bailable offense.

Authorities, headed by the Bureau of Customs recently conducted two enforcement operations in Indanan, Sulu and discovered that the combined worth of potential taxes lost was estimated at P7.9 billion.

“Agricultural smuggling happens. But tobacco or cigarette smuggling is more terrible than agricultural smuggling,” Nograles said.

He also likened cigarette smuggling to arms smuggling, drug smuggling and even money laundering, in terms of revenue losses and other ill effects which he said needs stricter laws to deter these incidents from happening.

House Bill 3917, the counterpart measure of Lapid’s proposed bill had been approved on third and final reading at the House of Representatives in December principally authored by Senior Deputy Majority Leader Sandro Marcos and PBA Partylist Representative Margarita Ignacia Nograles.

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