Philippines: BIR enforces policy of ‘no smoking, no fraternizing with tobacco industry’

Philippines’ Bureau of Internal Revenue enforces policy of ‘no smoking, no fraternizing with tobacco industry’

MANILA, Philippines—Officials and employees of the Bureau of Internal Revenue have been barred from having “unnecessary interaction” with and giving preferential treatment to the tobacco industry amid a push for excise tax reforms in Congress.

In a memorandum dated June 28, Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim S. Henares also ordered the implementation of the “100-percent smoke-free environment” policy in all BIR offices, citing relevant Philippine laws and an international agreement on health.

Revenue Memorandum Order No. 16-2012 states that BIR personnel “shall refrain from unnecessary interaction with the tobacco industry, giving preferential treatment to the tobacco industry such as providing incentives, privileges, benefits or exemptions, and/or soliciting or accepting gifts, donations and sponsorship from the tobacco industry.”

In issuing such prohibitions, the order cited a joint circular that the Civil Service Commission (CSC) and the Department of Health issued in 2010.

Joint Memorandum Circular No. 2010-01 lays down rules for the “protection of the bureaucracy against tobacco industry interference” for all government officials and employees in all national and local agencies and state corporations as well as colleges and universities.

The new BIR order, RMO 16-2012, also “strictly prohibit(s)” smoking in BIR officers and premises, although it also designates areas where smoking is allowed.

Henares cited various government issuances and laws that have mandated a no-smoking policy within public offices.

These include CSC Memorandum Circular No. 17-2009, the CSC-DOH JMO, Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003, Clean Air Act of 1999, and the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Henares said RMO 16-2012 was issued “to promote a healthy lifestyle among revenue officials and employees” as well as “to support national government and international efforts to protect present and future generations from the devastating consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke.”

In June, the president of local tobacco giant PMFTC said he expected arguments against reforms on the excise tax regime to “resonate in the Senate” during deliberations on a proposed law that would raise levies on the so-called sin products.

PMFTC president Chris Nelson said in an interview that “a number” of senators might take a similar position as that of the Philip Morris Manufacturing Philippine Inc., which merged with Fortune Tobacco Corp. recently.