THE Bureau of Customs seized P2.2 billion worth of illegal cigarette-making machines and tobacco products from May 28 to mid July as lockdowns were eased.

The latest operations was on July 12 at the Davao port, where Customs seized P53 million worth of cigarettes smuggled from China, the Department of Finance said in a statement on Monday, citing a report from the bureau.

SITC Container Lines Philippines, Inc. imported the shipment, initially declared as tissue paper, from Ningbo, China, it said.

“The men and women of the Bureau of Customs will remain vigilant and committed in securing our country’s borders against smuggling and other customs fraud,” Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo B. Guerrero said in the statement.

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III earlier said cigarette smuggling might have escalated due to higher taxes and low supply.

The government barred the transport of cigarettes from factories after locking down the entire Luzon island in mid-March.

Tax stamps released by the Bureau of Internal Revenue dropped by 59% from a year earlier to 537.13 million the three months through June. This brought down the value to P18.8 billion from P59.56 billion worth of stamps released in the same period last year.

The new sin tax law that took effect in January slapped higher excise taxes on tobacco products, electronic cigarettes and alcoholic drinks. — Beatrice M. Laforga