The illegal cigarette trade costs the government some 26 billion pesos in taxes every year

Some 13% of cigarettes sold in the country today are illegal, according to PBA party list representative Jericho Nograles

ZAMBOANGA SIBUGAY, Philippines – The government loses around 26 billion pesos in taxes every year due to the illicit cigarette trade.

Cheap cigarettes, either manufactured without authorization or produced and distributed without paying duties, flooded the market.

At least 13% of cigarettes sold in the country today are illegal, and in several parts of Mindanao, up to six out of 10 sticks of cigarettes sold at retail are contraband, said Representative Jericho Nograles of the list of PBA party.

In Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay, police seized contraband cigarettes worth some 5.266 million pesos on Saturday April 16.

Police Chief Sergeant Gil de Roda Jungco said authorities arrested two suspects during the operation in the village of Caparan around 5:20 p.m. Saturday.

One of the suspects was identified as 32-year-old Hamid Laja Pallong from Zamboanga town, while the other was a 17-year-old resident of Barangay Sanito in Ipil town.

Jungco said police seized 402 cases of cigarettes and two vehicles – a Toyota Innova and a Nissan pickup truck – from the suspects.

On March 31, police also confiscated some 210,000 pesos worth of contraband cigarettes at a checkpoint in the town of Buug, Zamboanga Sibugay.

In the city of Zamboanga, more than 36.5 million pesos worth of contraband cigarettes were also seized on January 7 and 25, respectively.

Authorities said cigarette smuggling had become rampant in Zamboanga province and city in recent years after the government imposed higher taxes on cigarettes.

Among Mindanao provinces, Nograles said, Zamboanga Sibugay led the illegal cigarette market with 56%.

Sultan Kudarat, he said, came second with 35.6%. –

Antonio Manaytay is a Mindanao-based journalist and winner of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship

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