Illicit trade: How can we nip it in the bud?
The unprecedented growth of the digital economy, fueled by pandemic-induced lockdowns in recent years, has significantly broadened market access, providing more people with the opportunity to access a wide range of goods.
However, this surge in accessibility has, at the same time, led to the proliferation of counterfeit products, which adds complexity to a market’s confusion between authentic and fake items. On top of the digital aspect, the smuggling of agricultural products remains rampant as well.
Illicit trade, in any context, is a complicated problem that has haunted governments around the world for as long as we can remember. Despite efforts to develop solutions, illicit traders seem to demonstrate adaptability, consistently finding creative ways to evade legal measures.
During a recent forum hosted by the National Tobacco Administration (NTA), Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Deogracias Victor “DV” Savellano underscored the gravity of illicit trade, characterizing it as a form of theft.
Particularly in the context of tobacco, which is a common target of clandestine activities, perpetrators not only steal from farmers and their families but also the government. Ultimately, all Filipinos are victims of this criminal activity as the revenues from the taxes on sin products are supposed to contribute to funding the country’s Universal Health Care.
Republic Act No. 11223, also known as the Universal Health Care Act, mandates the enrollment of all Filipino citizens in the National Health Insurance Program and introduces reforms in the health system. This initiative ensures that citizens have access to a comprehensive range of health services, shielding them from potential financial burdens.
Notably, Pulse Asia survey results consistently highlight Filipinos' personal concern for their health and well-being, underscoring the significance of health-related matters in their lives.
Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner Romeo Lumagui Jr. highlighted during the forum that illicit trade poses health risks as well as economic harm due to resulting tax losses and an uneven playing field for legitimate businesses. This imbalance could potentially impact