Thursday, February 2, 2023

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FIRING LINE: Multi-billion-peso vape crime

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By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

Four Binondo-based traders were recently dragged into court by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) for selling vape products that were allegedly smuggled into the country.

Charges were filed after no less than BIR Commissioner Romeo D. Lumagui Jr. led the inspection team that seized about 50,000 to 100,000 units of vapes, along with hundreds of boxes of vape flavors and accessories.

While the estimated value of the goods could hit P30 million, the appraised government losses from the “smuggled vapes” are an astonishing P1.4 billion over a year.

In retrospect, this explains a lot about why neither President Bongbong Marcos nor his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte – who made great strides against nicotine addiction in the country – took any action to either pass or veto the Vape Bill ratified by Congress last January.

For the sake of government revenues amid the backdrop of an economy scourged by the pandemic, these two presidents stood still to watch it lapse into law.

That being the irreversible case, let all regulatory taxes, fines, and penalties be squeezed out of the vape and e-cigarette industry. After all, its regulation and sweeping profits come at the cost of public health.

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Five days shy of 2023, the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) reports that 20 people have already been injured due to firecrackers and fireworks accidents, with an appeal to the public to refrain from lighting up these pyrotechnics and noise-makers to avoid fires, injuries or even death.

Seven days before the New Year’s Eve revelry, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) publishes its list of 14 certified brands of fireworks with PS licenses, with a reminder from Trade Undersecretary Ruth Castelo for the public to purchase firecrackers and fireworks only among these Philippine brands.

Good luck to the government at selling these ideas simultaneously with hopes of the best results that the New Year shall not usher in any more fires, explosions, blown-out hands, severed fingers, and other firecracker-related tragedies.

As for the indiscriminate firing of guns to welcome the New Year with a bang, I hold the Philippine National Police (PNP), local government units, and barangay officials directly responsible for any casualties.

Secretary Benhur Abalos of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), you’d better be doing a “helluva” all-out campaign to prevent a bloody start to 2023!

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SHORTBURSTS. For comments or reactions, email or tweet @Side_View. Read current and past issues of this column at

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