DAVAO CITY — Cigarettes and alcohol remain the top counterfeit goods being smuggled into the Philippines, followed closely by fake medicines and personal care products, according to the running tally of the International Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL).

Chester Arturo D. Cinco, a division chief with IPOPHL’s Bureau of Trademarks, said it has so far recorded P1.8 billion worth of fake products seized by various government agencies.

Of the total, cigarettes and alcohol accounted for about P456 million, followed closely by pharmaceuticals and personal care products at P455 million. The others are handbags and wallets, P449 million; optical media products, P190 million; and footwear, P130 million.

Mr. Cinco, speaking at a news conference during Wednesday’s opening of a two-day workshop for Law Enforcers and Public Prosecutors on Developments of Intellectual Property Laws and Best Practices here, said this year’s seizures still much lower than 2018’s total of P23.5 billion because the office is still consolidating reports.

“One is we have not received all the reports. The operations of the Bureau of Customs (BoC) a couple of months ago ay hindi pa (are not yet) fully reported… because at the moment they are still doing their inventory and evaluations. Another reason is, it depends on the efforts of the brand owners in enforcing their rights,” he said.

The IPOPHL list is reported and verified by members of the National Committee on Intellectual Property Rights, Food and Drug Administration, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Optical Media Board, and the BoC.

In 2018, seized cigarettes and alcohol amounted to P20.2 billion; pharmaceutical and personal care products, P1.2 billion; handbags and wallets, P820 million; optical media products, P789 million; and footwear, P190 million.

Halos 80% ay yung pekeng sigarilyo (Almost 80% are fake cigarettes),” IPOPHL Deputy General Director Teodoro C. Pascua said.

He said the government appeals to the public to stop patronizing counterfeit goods, which deprive the country of taxes and affects legitimate manufacturers and traders.

Mr. Cinco said the ongoing workshop in Davao City is intended to increase the awareness and understanding of intellectual property rights (IPR) among law enforcers.

He cited that most seizures in the city, undertaken by members of the NBI and police force, are cosmetic products.

“This is just the start because we have a long way ahead,” Mr. Cinco said.

Ann N. Edillon, a director of IPOPHL’s Bureau of Patents, said they are pushing for the inclusion of IPR in the Philippine National Police’s learning program as well as conducting seminars in schools as part of consumer education.

“Awareness is the number one way to protect the consumers,” she said.

Ms. Edillon also stressed that the government’s campaign against fake products focuses on stopping the source.

Kung hindi mapigilan ang source kahit pa hulihin ang lahat ng small vendors, in a few weeks babalik din ang mga ito (If we don’t stop the source, even if we arrest all the small vendors, in a few weeks the fake goods will be back).”

In the Property Rights Alliance’s 2019 International Property Rights Index, the Philippines ranked 67th among 131 countries, three notches higher than its position at number 70 last year. Within the Asia and Oceania regional grouping composed of 21 countries, the Philippines remained at 14th. — Maya M. Padillo